The bedroom in David's Airbnb.
The bedroom in a San Antonio teacher's home is listed on Airbnb. Credit: Courtesy / Airbnb

In 2014-15, 94 percent of public school teachers spent their own money on classroom supplies, according to a National Center for Education Statistics report. This factor has long been recognized as an added annual expense among educators, but it isn’t built in to a regular salary.

At a time when teachers across the country have demanded higher pay through strikes and Texas lawmakers made the issue a priority during the last special session of the legislature, teacher salaries are a much-discussed issue.

To augment their income, teachers often take on summer jobs and weekend work. Last week, Airbnb reported that teachers were using the home rental platform as an extra source of income, with educators making up 10 percent of Airbnb hosts nationwide.

“Teachers have faced stagnated wages,” said Christopher Nulty, Airbnb’s head of public affairs for the Americas. “We certainly think that home sharing is an important way for people to supplement their income, [although] we don’t think it is a policy solution to address paying teachers fairly.”

In San Antonio, teacher salaries vary widely based on school district, type of school, and job description. Most local traditional public school districts pay their teachers between $54,000 and $58,000.

In San Antonio, 12 percent of local hosts are educators, and the typical teacher earned an additional $6,500 in 2017 from the service, Airbnb said.

Sarah Patch is one of those teachers using the home-sharing platform to pad her bank account. A special education teacher at a charter school, she lives near Lackland Air Force Base in a three-bedroom home with two rooms for rent.

When her sister first suggested she open her extra rooms to visitors, Patch was hesitant because she wasn’t familiar with Airbnb.

“But then I fell in love with it,” Patch said. “I figured why not open up both of my rooms to make some extra income?”

Since December 2016, Patch has rented her rooms regularly, with some staying for several months at a time and others just stopping in for a few days. She even became what Airbnb calls a “superhost,” a title bestowed on a select few who “go above and beyond for every guest.”

“…[I]f I budget correctly – the Airbnb income would practically pay all of my living expenses,” Patch said.

While Patch doesn’t use the money from her rental to buy school supplies, she does use it to make home improvements. This, she said, frees up more of her teacher income to purchase items needed for school.

In 2017, San Antonio teacher Airbnb hosts earned close to $550,000 by using the platform, according to Airbnb. More than $150,000 of that revenue came during the summer.

“Teachers [are] more likely than other hosts to share their space during the summer and when you think about it makes total sense,” Nulty said. “Teachers have crazy schedules for nine months of the year, and then for two or three months they have some time off and can make some extra money.”

David, who requested that his last name not be published, rents out his spare guest bedroom in Northwest San Antonio. During the school year, he teaches math at a high school in Northside ISD.

“During the week, I have business people stopping in and it will just be for a night and they really just want a place to lay their head,” he told the Rivard Report. “On the weekends, it is usually people from out of town, but within Texas, and they either want to take a trip to Fiesta Texas or SeaWorld the next day or that weekend.”

David estimates he hosts about 100 guests throughout the year. The income allows him to make home repairs and travel during his summer break.

When David first started hosting through Airbnb, about two years ago, he worked at a school that couldn’t afford to supplement all the necessary classroom supplies. David used his extra income to pay for items his students needed.

The experience is common among teachers, and Airbnb is just one way teachers help support the cost of supplying a class.

“I know a lot of teachers who do private tutoring on the side, and I have also known some teachers who have done Shipt, the grocery delivery,” David told the Rivard Report.

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Emily Donaldson

Emily Donaldson reports on education for the San Antonio Report.