1.21 2021

Friends Center for Children Launches Free Teacher Housing Initiative

By Maggie Prendergast

Long before the pandemic struck, Friends Center for Children had been wrestling with the issue of inadequate compensation for infant and preschool teachers. One potential solution, a Friends Center Teacher Housing Initiative, captured the attention of two long-time FCfC supporters, Greg Melville, a member of New Haven Friends Meeting, and his wife, Susan Fox, who pledged $750,000 to purchase two homes in New Haven to provide free housing to an initial group of Friends Center teachers.

“We consider early childhood educators to be ‘essential workers’ and key to the healthy development of the next generation, and we know that most do not earn enough from their teaching job to afford to live in New Haven,” said Fox and Melville. “By helping to provide FCfC teachers with safe, affordable housing, we hope to further a model of innovative housing solutions equal to the Center’s bold, educational vision,” they noted.

Both of the houses are within walking distance of Friends Center’s East Grand site, with one offering single family living and the other multi-family capacity. One teacher and her young son joyfully moved into her new multi-family home at the end of December 2020. The other teacher happily followed shortly thereafter. The third unit will house another teacher and her young son in May. The second home, a single family dwelling, provides housing for a teacher and her two children who moved in mid-January. Both properties have been updated and made comfortable and safe for their new and extraordinarily grateful occupants. A second phase of this program hopes to create 12-19 additional teacher housing units when funding becomes available.

The Friends Center Teacher Housing Initiative offers rent-free housing to Friends Center teachers whose situations warrant this help. These teachers use rent savings to pay off school or personal loans and work toward financial independence. Friends Center provides fiscal coaching and goal setting for its teacher tenants, who can live rent free from one to five years depending on need.

Allyx Schiavone, executive director of Friends Center, explains, “Providing free housing to our teachers is not a bonus or a privilege. It is our attempt to counterbalance a system designed to marginalize an under-resourced and overburdened industry. We believe that bold measures are needed to change the status quo. We are exceptionally grateful that the Melvilles see the true value of early care and education teachers and are willing to work with us creatively to improve the model of compensation.”

Friends Center for Children is an independent early childhood education center in New Haven serving children from three months to five years old. Founded in 2007 by members of the New Haven Friends Meeting to address the critical shortage in high-quality early childhood education opportunities. FCfC currently serves 122 infant and preschool children in two New Haven locations, with multiple additional sites in the planning stage. FCfC families and teachers are representative of New Haven’s communities and cross all racial, ethnic and income spectrums.

For more information, contact: Tanya Shively (tshively@friendscenterforchildren.org; (203.468.1966) to schedule a meeting with Allyx Schiavone, Executive Director of Friends Center for Children.

Friends Center teacher Kristen Calderon and her son enjoy new proximity to work and river views in their Front Street apartment, one of three units that will offer teachers rent-free housing as a part of Friend Center’s teacher Housing Plan. Photo by Ian Christmann


One of Friends Center’s first teacher houses — a picture-perfect single family on Howard Street — will soon be a rent-free home to a preschool teacher and her family as part of Friend Center’s teacher Housing Plan— an innovative solution to provide much-needed increases in teacher compensation without increasing tuition costs for high-quality early childhood care. Photos by Ian Christmann

BACKGROUND INFORMATION Friends Center for Children

Friends Center for Children’s core mission is: Educate Children, Empower Families, Inspire Teachers, Engage Community, Embrace Diversity. The program provides high-quality early childhood education to children who represent New Haven’s diverse communities; families are drawn from all racial, ethnic and income spectrums. Friends Center utilizes a sliding scale tuition system. Parents pay 12% of their gross income, capped at the true cost of care. Annual expenses exceed annual income by an average of $220,000 a year, which limits the program’s ability to raise teacher salaries to pay parity with elementary public-school teachers, a long- standing goal of the program.

Early Childhood Educators

Early childhood educators, 98 percent of whom are female, are among the front-line workers who are egregiously under compensated. The average yearly salary of early childhood teachers is $28,000 for infant/toddler caregivers and $39,000 for preschool teachers, well below the cost of living. These essential workers’ salaries belie the importance of early childhood education and further marginalize an already oft-marginalized population. Subsidized housing is a first step in helping to acknowledge the importance and value of these teachers.

The true cost of high-quality care in New Haven is $23,000 for infants/toddlers and $16,000 for preschool. Through a variety of programs, the state of Connecticut subsidizes these programs at 50% of the true cost of care, and this gap shifts the balance of program cost onto families. Since most New Haven families are unable to pay actual costs, these early childhood programs operate at 50% of true cost. As a result, early childhood education teacher salaries are significantly underfunded. If fiscal value determined industry norms, state funding would match the true cost of care, and these teachers would not be grossly undervalued – and underpaid.

“The Early Care and Education Funding System is sexist, racist and broken. We ask women, predominantly black and brown women, to care for and educate the youngest and most vulnerable members of our society, and we compensate them at levels that perpetuate poverty.”

Allyx Schiavone