I just read most of this article about a family from Martha's Vineyard struggling to afford where they live. Things were so bad that, at the time the story was printed, they were "living in a tent with their two year old daughter." The mother just happened to be a teacher. It's not that the family was really the kind of poor that they couldn't afford to find somewhere to live - or even buy. They just couldn't afford it in Martha's Vineyard. Until, of course, they were lucky enough to score affordable housing - for $287,900! While I wouldn't exactly call that affordable, it was a price they were willing to pay. However, life can be interesting - and this is one of those cases. Families that don't even live in Martha's Vineyard are bringing the three proposed units of affordable housing to court - stalling anyone's chance of moving in.
Of course, that one anecdote has wider meaning. In fact, it's not really much of an anecdote at all. Affordability is a systemic problem for most of Massachusetts, not just those two, remote islands. However, it's almost ironic for teachers who work at wealthy or very good school systems: they aren't allowed to give their kids the same quality of education that they give to thousands of students over the course of their career.
Back in the 1980s, when my Dad first started working at the Lynnfield School System, they allowed teachers to send their kids to Lynnfield Schools. It was such a rare policy that, in the early 90s, they quickly reversed it. All my father's children were probably the last to go - and grand-fathered in, as the policy changed when my brother was there (Class of '92). Though my Dad lived in Lynn, infamous for its schools, he was able to send both my older brother and sister to the Lynnfield School System for the latter years of their K-12 education.
They're definitely smarter for it, too. My sister was able to take all sorts of honors and AP classes that wouldn't be available at Lynn and she even did exceptionally well in athletics, which would have been harder at a much larger school system. My brother, who was more into sports than education, ended up with respectable grades and reportedly lost the Cape Ann League's Football MVP because my Dad, a head football coach, abstained from voting that year. (He didn't think it would be right - even if my brother was being recruited by the BCs and Notre Dames of college football at the time.)
However, as the years went on and it was time to pick a school system for my much, much younger brother and sister, my Dad and Stepmother were facing a tougher choice. My older brother and sister only went to Lynnfield High School and Middle School - right around the corner from the high school. They sent them when Lynnfield was a different town - still prosperous, but with more of a mix. There were as many owners of landscaping companies and electricians as there were lawyers. Now, it's mostly just the lawyer-types.
For myriad reasons, my Step Mother really wanted to move to a system she felt would come close to Lynnfield schools. They were mostly looking at Swampscott, but all the school committee infighting and administration vs. teacher angst left a sour taste in her mouth - especially since I was at Swampscott High then and told her about all the stuff going on.
They saw a few houses in Lynnfield that they liked, just before housing prices really spiked, and jumped at one they found out was on the market before there was even a sign on the lawn. Because prices were finally what they were in the 80's, before the housing market crash, they could finally afford to move at all. Moving in Lynnfield, though, meant they had to really sacrifice: my Dad had to sell the house he grew up in, too.
So two nice houses for my Dad and Step Mother = a slightly nicer than average house in Lynnfield. However, almost no one is in the position my Dad was in back then, least of all his co-workers. Not many people were essentially given a second house they'd be able to sell, so they could get their kids the same education they gave everyday. Even the LHS principal lived in Peabody, literally a few houses down from Lynnfield, a decision they made because they couldn't quite afford something for a family of four in Lynnfield. Heck, as the son of a teacher, I probably wouldn't be living in Swampscott if not for the fact that my Dad played for the Buffalo Bills when they bought this modest house for $20,000 in the 1970s.
Massachusetts - and this entire country - has to do something for its teachers. It's a basic matter of fairness that people who spend their lives educating thousands of other people's kids ought to be able to give their children the same quality of education, be it in Swampscott and Lynnfield or Martha's Vineyard. I don't know what the answer to this problem is - though, ultimately, I'd wish it was "fix every school system so they're all very good," but that's not going to happen yet.
There are laws in Massachusetts that allow construction companies to bypass town bylaws and build more units than would otherwise be allowed if a percentage of them are affordable housing, but that causes some problems of its own (traffic, cramped housing, a break from what homes look like in the area, etc.). However, affordability is at the root of many problems surrounding a lack of town-to-town equality in education - something that effects millions more than just teachers in Massachusetts. In creating a better educational system across Massachusetts, our state's leaders must look at periphery - yet connected - causes, including affordable housing.