An Indiana Nonprofit Helps Black Educators With Housing Costs in ‘Teacherville’

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This article was originally published by Mirror Indy, and is republished through our partnership Free Press Indiana.

An Indianapolis nonprofit called Educate ME has launched a program to help Black educators buy their first homes. 

The idea sprung from conversations with educators who said low pay drove them away from teaching, CEO Blake Nathan said. While his organization, which is dedicated to building diversity among teaching staffs, can’t help educators earn higher salaries, it can provide financial support for other living expenses. 

Nathan said the organization’s long-term goal is to grow its support for Black educators in an effort to help build generational wealth within the community. If successful, Nathan said, those results could trickle down to students.

Studies have shown that having greater representation of Black teachers in classrooms can positively affect student performance, suspension frequency and graduation rates, Nathan said. In IPS, for example, Black educators make up 20% of the district’s teaching population while more than 40% of students are Black.

“We have to find ways to retain those Black teachers because we understand the importance of having Black teachers in our school systems,” Nathan said. “This is a true testament of philanthropy to circulate the dollar to get it directly into the hands of the beneficiary who needs it most.”

The program, called Teacherville, will cover closing costs of up to $5,000 for homes in the Martindale Brightwood area. Educate ME is partnering with the Martindale Brightwood Community Development Corporation to offer educators early access to view the organization’s inventory of new homes before they’re listed on popular real estate websites like Zillow. Nathan said the neighborhood organization has more than a dozen new homes on track to be completed by the end of the year.

Affordable townhomes are under construction on Rural Street In the Martindale Brightwood neighborhood on Feb. 8. (Dawn Mitchell/Mirror Indy)

Educate ME also will sponsor down payments for existing homes in the neighborhood and is interested in partnering with other Indianapolis-area community development corporations in the future.

The Teacherville program funds Black educators — including teachers, counselors and school support staff — working in any Indianapolis school. To be eligible, educators must meet certain income and credit score requirements.

Educate ME also partners with the Indianapolis Neighborhood Housing Partnership to connect teachers with resources for homebuyer education classes and support for credit building, regardless of their income levels.

“The homebuying process can be very overwhelming to anyone,” Nathan said. “What we want to do is think about, ‘How can we streamline this process? How can we make this process less intimidating for a teacher?’”

Nathan said Teacherville set an initial goal of supporting 25 educators and now has at least 10 others on a waitlist. The program, however, is still adding to its waitlist and Nathan encourages educators to apply through the Teacherville website.

Finishing touches are being made to affordable townhomes at 2411 Rural St. in the Martindale-Brightwood neighborhood on Feb. 8. (Dawn Mitchell/Mirror Indy)

The initiative is supported by a gift from the African American Legacy Fund of Indianapolis and the donor advised fund of the Indianapolis Foundation, which provided $100,000. Educate ME is now seeking community donations to fund down payment assistance for educators on the Teacherville waitlist.

Larry Smith, president and CEO of Indianapolis-based the Fathers and Families Center, said the program seeks not only to help recruit and retain teachers, but also to contribute to the resurgence of the Martindale Brightwood area.

He said he and other community leaders were drawn to helping Educate ME because of its plans to scale up support beyond Teacherville’s initial donations.

“We don’t have millions and millions of dollars,” Smith said. “But, in terms of helping to attract, recruit and retain teachers, we felt that we could have a real impact.”

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