First-Time Miami Teachers Spend 72 Percent of Income on Rent, New Report Says

Florida is struggling to fill thousands of empty teaching positions due to low pay and a high cost of living.
Florida is struggling to fill thousands of empty teaching positions due to low pay and a high cost of living. Photo by Wokandapix / Pixabay
As Florida struggles to fill thousands of empty teaching positions, developers in the Miami area continue to erect expensive (and largely vacant) condo towers. This witch's brew of scant affordable housing and abysmal pay for teachers has made Miami one of the worst metropolitan areas in the nation for an entry-level schoolteacher.

That's according to a new analysis of housing affordability in the 50 largest metropolitan areas by the online real-estate database Zillow. According to the report, a first-time teacher in Miami must use a whopping 72 percent of his or her starting salary to cover rent, which averages $1,938 per month. By most affordable-housing measures, people who spend 30 percent or more of their income on housing are considered rent-burdened.

Things seem to get better for teachers — if only slightly — if they can tough it out for a few years. According to the Zillow analysis, midcareer teachers in Miami can expect to shell out about 52 percent of their salaries to afford the typical rent, while even the highest-paid teachers burn through 41 percent of their income to cover rental housing.

If they can manage it — and that's a big "if" in Miami these days — teachers who own their homes fare slightly better. Starting teachers can expect to spend about 39 percent of their income on a typical mortgage, while midcareer and veteran teachers can expect to spend about 28 percent and 22.5 percent, respectively.

Though the Miami area is one of the priciest metropolitan centers on the East Coast, median rent in the Magic City is actually lower than in New York and Washington, D.C. It's the area's low-paying salaries combined with astronomical housing costs that make Miami so disenchanting to would-be teachers. Florida is inches from rock-bottom when it comes to teacher pay, ranking 46th in the nation this year, according to a report by the teacher labor union National Education Association. Between 2017 and 2018, Florida teachers earned just over $48,000 on average — roughly $12,000 under the national rate. Add in the fact that the Sunshine State generally ranks poorly in overall spending on public education, and it's no mystery why so many teaching positions are going unfilled.

A bill to set a $50,000 minimum salary for teachers in Florida has been shot down year after year in the state's Republican-controlled Legislature. Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers led by Gov. Ron DeSantis have bolstered charter schools and private school vouchers with hundreds of millions of dollars in funding. And in Miami, affordable-housing projects have been largely abandoned by developers in favor of large-dollar luxury developments, many of which remain vacant for most of the year. 
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Manuel Madrid is a former staff writer for Miami New Times. The child of Venezuelan immigrants, he grew up in Pompano Beach. He studied finance at Virginia Commonwealth University and worked as a writing fellow for the magazine The American Prospect in Washington, D.C.