Pflugerville and Rankin don’t have a ton in common.
Pflugerville is a growing suburb of Austin. Rankin is a small oil field community in the Permian Basin, about one hour south of Midland. Different as they are, they share a problem: Their public school districts both need more affordable housing for teachers.
The cost of living in the Austin area is preventing the Pflugerville Independent School District from attracting new teachers. Superintendent Douglas Killian said the district doesn’t have a problem finding candidates who are interested in Pflugerville, but the cost of living is a problem.
Candidates “start looking for housing in the area that a teacher can afford, that doesn’t have a spouse that’s been brought here for a high-tech job that’s paying really high, they simply can’t afford that, and they turn us down,” Killian said at a school board meeting in August.
So this Election Day, voters in Pflugerville will decide whether the district will raise nearly $44 million through bonds to pay for teacher housing. The proposition wasn’t part of the original bond recommendations put forth by a district committee. But Killian thought it was too important to leave out, so he submitted the housing idea to the school board himself.
“With the number of vacancies in this state and in this nation for teachers, and the affordability of our communities in the Austin metroplex area, I don’t see how we can’t do something,” he said.
To make his case for the bond, Killian referred to districts in West Texas that have had success offering teacher housing. Districts like Fort Stockton ISD have had success recruiting and retaining staff by offering them a place to stay.
District leaders in Rankin hope to follow that example. The district’s budget for teacher housing is much smaller than Pflugerville’s at $4 million. But that could make a big difference for the district, which only has about 300 students.
There’s not a lot of available housing in Rankin, and demand from oil field workers takes up much of the existing residences.