by Otis Golden
As a paraeducator at “the crown jewel of the South End,” Rainier Beach High School, I know one of the biggest barriers to closing the achievement gap that educators face today is — affordable housing.
Due to the extremely high cost of living in King County, many educators are forced to commute into the neighborhoods and communities we serve. That’s why I support I-135. By allowing educators to have affordable housing in the neighborhoods we serve, a positive ripple effect will happen within the communities.
Students and families will see the educators from their school when they’re out and about — in the grocery store, at the diner, at the library. This common bond of connectedness and shared investment in the neighborhood will reinforce the relationship between the families and the school.
When students recognize their teachers shopping at the same grocery store as them, the thoughts of “Oh, they live where I live. They care about this area like I do,” begin to happen. And on the other end, when someone like myself who grew up in this area begins to see my students outside of school, I have the knowledge and experience in this area to connect with students in a more meaningful way.
When this shared investment in the community takes place outside of the school, it begins to weave together a powerful fabric of support for our students.
Along with a sense of shared community, when educators can afford to live in the areas we teach, our hard-earned dollars begin to get spent in the local businesses of the community, boosting the local economy. Restaurants, corner stores, service-based businesses will all benefit from educators living and spending closer to the schools that we serve.
As a paraeducator who is focused on the social and emotional learning of our students, I cannot help but feel we are missing a critical piece to the age-old question of how to improve our schools by not being a part of the community. I’ve learned over my years working as an educator that the things that hurt our babies outside the building are the same things that hurt them on the inside. To make our students feel seen, we need to see what they experience both inside and outside of school.
The City of Seattle must fix the broken housing system. Educators are failing to reach our full potential because we are forced to drive an hour each way in order to afford the cost of living.
We need to adopt the mindset of helping our communities from within our communities. Seattle needs to show educators that it values what we give each day, and that you want us around. We need to show students that their teachers care about them, as well as their neighborhood, in more ways than tests and homework.
If the affordable housing situation can be resolved for educators, it can lead to the most impactful, long-lasting changes that we need to help build safe schools, strong communities, and happier more productive students. And that right there is why we do what we do — for our students.
So be sure to vote YES on I-135 by Feb. 14 and help contribute to building school communities that allow the students and educators of our city to truly thrive.
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Otis Golden is a paraeducator at Rainier Beach High School and lifelong Rainier Beach resident.
📸 Featured Image: Photo by 1599686sv/Shutterstock.com
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