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Some teachers in Los Angeles are not making enough money to live comfortably.

Plus, the first episode of our podcast 'I Can See That'

We’ve added a new voice to our newsletter crew. Meet Eric Devontae Russell, our senior social media producer. Be nice (or we’ll tell Santa 🎅🏾).

Ho Ho Ho! Or, as Keenan Thompson said, “Yo Yo Yo!” 'Tis the season of giving, so we are giving you another edition of The Breakdown. Aren’t we so philanthropic? Speaking of charitable giving…

It’s not too late to contribute to our NewsMatch fundraising campaign. You’ve got until Dec. 31 to help us double our money. Any donation made through the end of the year is matched 100%. And if you become a member with a recurring monthly donation, they’ll double the annual total . So $10 a month is actually $240 for AfroLA. Open your hearts…and your pocketbooks.

Today’s newsletter is not the most cheery piece, but we are here to keep it 💯 . And the real is that L.A. area rent prices are higher than Snoop Dogg in the ‘90s. So, should we build housing for L.A. teachers? Our featured story expands upon that question with research and a conversation with former teachers with different perspectives. It’s also the first episode of AfroLA’s new shiny podcast, ‘I Can See That.’

Btw, we’re still working out the kinks in the transition to a biweekly schedule. We’ll be back just before the New Year’s ball drop.



Photo illustration of an oversized man with legs sticking out from under a pile of moving boxes on a city street.

(Photo illustration by Shawntel Johnson; created in Procreate and Lightroom using assets from Unsplash, Pexel, and Pixabay)

It has been argued that they key to success is a good education. But, can we really expect students to receive a quality education when their educators are stressed and struggling to survive financially? With the pay gap higher than it’s ever been, some ask whether L.A. should build housing for its teachers.

According to the Economic Policy Institute, the 25% pay gap for teachers compared to similarly educated professionals is the highest it’s ever been since 1980. But, average teacher salaries in the U.S. have stagnated the past three decades.

New teachers, particularly in cities like San Francisco and L.A., face the daunting task of allocating a significant portion of their income to secure housing.

We brought together two former teachers, Nick Melvoin (now an L.A. Unified school board member) and Aaron Ainsworth (now an education policy researcher at UC Irvine) talk through the complexities surrounding teacher housing as part of our new solutions journalism podcast (more on that below).

Well, as researcher Ainsworth said, some may say “Oh, just just pay the teachers more.” However, there are additional resolutions as well. During the “I Can See That,” podcast Nick Melvoin said,

Melvoin and Ainsworth both acknowledged that while teachers’ salaries are historically high, it’s still not enough.

LAUSD is the nation’s second-largest school system and owns 6,400 acres of land. In cities like L.A., owning a home can take up 52% of a teacher’s salary. Since 2017, the rent for a one-bedroom home in the largest U.S. metro areas in has increased by 22%. Yet, starting teacher salaries have only increased by 15%.

Within the teaching profession, there are still certain groups of people that are more impacted than the others. Black educators experience the least job retention and bear a disproportionate burden of rental costs. And, whilere there are more Latine teachers, they also grapple with the challenges of high rents. Historical discriminatory housing practices such as redlining contribute to racial wealth disparities, exacerbating difficulties associated with home ownership.

“For a variety of reasons, including demographic shifts and birth rates being low and enrollment and strategic priorities, we actually have a lot of underutilized land…” Melvoin said in our conversation. To date, Melvoin has been involved in three affordable housing projects for LAUSD employees, boasting nearly 200 new units.

“I think schools don’t necessarily want to be in this position,” Ainsworth explained. “If they didn’t have to focus on this, I don’t think they would. But they feel compelled to. And so understanding that, lots of people might be involved in the solution to the housing affordability issue.”

Navigating pay disparities and the housing crisis is complicated, and there are no easy solutions. And, despite it being a solutions journalism podcast, we don’t have a clearcut answer. 

Listen to two unique perspectives on teacher housing in the first episode of I Can See That. You’ll be glad you did. (Pinky promise.)


We’ve launched two important initiatives in recent weeks.

New podcast. Who dis?

AfroLA is a solutions journalism newsroom. Periodt.

From the jump, we have positioned ourselves as a solutions journalism newsroom:

AfroLA is solutions-focused, data-driven and community-centered journalism for Los Angeles, told through the lens of the Black community, and with emphasis on how news may disparately impact L.A.’s most vulnerable groups and communities of color.

But what exactly does “solutions journalism” mean? SoJo, as it’s called, isn’t about us solving the world’s problems. Or, even just writing about them. That’s actually the point: Don’t keep reiterating the litany of problems that are well-known and well-documented. Explain with insight, context and nuance their impact, who’s accountable and who they affect.

I Can See That brings together two people with different points of view for a conversation. No debate. No manipulation. No coercion. Just real talk about why you believe what you believe with someone else in hopes you can see where they’re coming from, too. Listen to the first episode on housing for teachers struggling to find a place to live—and own—amid L.A.’s housing crisis.

More than soul food and hair care

Buy Black LA is a Black business directory for the Greater Los Angeles area produced and maintained by AfroLA. It was created to help Angelenos more easily find and support Black businesses that bolster local Black communities. And, to highlight the diversity of services and industries that are Black-led. It’s a free, accessible tool created as a public service for Angelenos.

There are other online black business directories. But, the aim of Buy Black LA is to highlight the contributions and importance of Black owners/operators to the fabric of L.A.’s Black communities.


Photo illustration of a Black man lays on a cardboard box, covering himself with a newspaper with a city skyline and money in the background.

(Photo illustration by Shawntel Johnson; created in Procreate and Lightroom using assets from Unsplash, Pexel, and Pixabay)

Reporter Ethan Ward reflects on the disparate reactions to stories of the unhoused to unpack the racial biases embedded in public empathy. It’s not just about individuals personally impacted strangers’ charity, in person or in online crowdfunding. In a broader context, there is systemic underfunding and biases against Black-led initiatives, hindering their growth and social progress. We need to acknowledge racial disparities and historical injustices in grantmaking while emphasizing that philanthropy alone cannot replace comprehensive and equitable government support.


Story by A. Gabriela Garcia, edited by Katie Licari

A student wearing a backpack stands in front of a deli counter as a worker prepares a sandwich.

Aldo Ramirez, a Fullerton College business administration student, orders lunch on Sept. 26, 2023 at Buzzy’s Deli on campus. (Jocelyn Padilla/The Cypress Chronicle for AfroLA)

Orange County's Cypress College has faced widespread discontent among students, staff and faculty due to changes in the school's new food program. The controversy centers changes made in September that require students to obtain and return a meal card each day to access the Charger Cafe, the on-campus cafeteria. The meal card, preloaded with $12, can only be acquired during specific time slots and must be returned by 3 p.m. daily.

An examination of community college food programs in OC and L.A. County, reveals a broader problem. Food insecurity among community college students in California and disparities in how they’re being helped.


A woman in a white lab coat holds a stethoscope in their ears.

(Photo by Nappy via Unsplash)

A beloved professor and admissions director of USC’s occupational therapy program fivefold. Students were confused and hurt over her demotion. When they learned the truth, questions arose if her commitment to diversity might have made others uncomfortable.

Representation in faculty has an impact on student enrollment, and is especially important in the medical field. Students learn to care for patients from many backgrounds and a clinician of color can be a critical community resource. How do we support and bolster representation in the classroom so that more patients can see themselves in who cares for them?


Now through Dec. 31, every donation to AfroLA is doubled through the Institute for Nonprofit News's NewsMatch program (and our first $5,000 in donations is tripled). Donate to help us keep providing high-quality local news.

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“I find it most rewarding when I can share the feeling of community that AfroLA’s stories have introduced us to.”

—Henry Davis, social media producer

“The same way there are a plethora of issues to highlight in California, there are a plethora of incredible people that deserve to be spotlighted right here in our own backyard. I’m honored and grateful to be able to tell those stories.”

—Eric Russell, senior social media producer

“We started working with the organization this past year, and with [our founder’s] guidance, our contributors’ stories, and engagement with our audience, we have learned plenty to carry forward in all lines of work. AfroLA places a lens on Los Angeles with the intention of uplifting all Black folks, regardless of background. This work is something to be celebrated.”

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