"Love it or leave it?" I think I will!
August 28, 2016 6:20 PM   Subscribe

My home state is rife with problems, and it's government is corrupt and incompetent. As a public employee, I don't feel safe trusting my retirement pension to a state legislature that consistently relies on stopgap measures to avoid deficit spending and lacks the political will/intelligence to solve the issues that will most certainly arrive when even more Baby Boomers apply for Medicaid benefits (which are partially paid for by the state). I've decided to look for greener pastures. Please help me identify some areas I should investigate for a future relocation.

I'm looking for an area that will meet at least some of the following criteria:

1. I've got to have at least a decent shot at landing a teaching job and being able to support myself on that kind of salary. Areas with a very high cost of living are off the table.

2. The state government needs to have its act together to the point that they aren't scrambling for a temporary fix to pay for basic services every single year. Bonus points if there are actually two viable parties so the state elections aren't effectively decided in the primary stage and the local elections are more than just a fight over who controls a patronage system.

3. I'm tired of suffering through hot, humid summers that seem to last for five months, but I'm also just not cut out for unusually cold and snowy winters.

4. I've been terribly spoiled by living in a semi-rural area with a 15 minute commute to work, and real, big city traffic (LA, DC, Atlanta) would probably drive me insane as a result. I had a taste of fighting freeway congestion every morning earlier in my life, and I just can't deal with it.

5. I'd really like to live in a state that has some kind of free tuition program (lottery funded or whatever you've got) so I won't go broke trying to help my kids pay for college education.

I hope I'm not coming across as super picky. The bottom line is that I'm looking for a place where I'll be able to afford a middle-class lifestyle for my family, I won't have to stay up at night worrying about my pension being raided, and my kids won't have to move far away to get a decent job one day. I'm flexible on just about everything else.

Thanks in advance for the suggestions.
posted by Chuck Barris to Work & Money (26 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
Telling people where you currently live would really help answering this question.
posted by ryanbryan at 6:29 PM on August 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


Response by poster: Sorry, that probably would help, wouldn't it? I'm in Mississippi.
posted by Chuck Barris at 6:33 PM on August 28, 2016


Massachusetts:

1. Education is a state industry in a way. I doubt teachers have it easy anywhere but education is important here.

2. Not sure how our budget is looking but pretty sure we are not always in crisis mode, and we are a very blue state with a popular republican gov.

3. We got four seasons, and winters can be bad but not like deep woods Maine or Buffalo or anything.

4. There are plenty of smaller towns, small cities (check out Northampton) and even Boston isn't as traffic crazy as NYC, in my opinion.

5. In state tuition at out public universities and colleges has always been good bang for the buck.

Areas of Conn, NH, and RI might also interest you.
posted by vrakatar at 6:45 PM on August 28, 2016 [4 favorites]


You might find this useful: http://www.bestplaces.net/

It can help you compare city size, climate and cost of living.

I also found it useful to go to City-Data, select a state, sort cities by size and copy-paste cities in the size range that interested me into a document to use as a jumping off point for further research.

I know nothing at all about politics, but I know a little something about climate. Parts of Florida, coastal Texas and the western seaboard would likely meet your criteria of lacking long sweltering summers and having little to no snow.

California has a terrible reputation for cost of living, but parts of the Central Valley are not crazy expensive and in-state tuition for two year colleges is surprisingly low. There are many existing agreements for doing your first two years at a community college and transferring to a four year university.

Washington state and Texas have no state income tax. Oregon has zero sales tax.

I am not "recommending" California. I am only informing you of bits and pieces of things I am aware of to help you start your search.
posted by Michele in California at 6:54 PM on August 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


These are the states that have reciprocity with MS in accepting teaching credentials. I would advise you to choose one of those, just to make the process easier.
posted by guster4lovers at 6:54 PM on August 28, 2016 [6 favorites]


Define "unusually cold and snowy winters." I mean, I'm not going to recommend Buffalo. Winter here is SRS BISNS. But it would probably help others to know whether, to you, DC has cold and snowy winters, or where you'd draw that line.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:02 PM on August 28, 2016


Albemarle County, Virginia (home to Charlottesville)?

- not bad winters, not too bad summers (the bad part isn't too long, at least)
- good cost of living
- Virginia has great institutions of higher education with good in-state rates
- beautiful horse and wine country with a fun town nearby
- my impression is Virginia puts a high priority on education and does well by their teachers--this area might be very competitive, though...
posted by sallybrown at 7:09 PM on August 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


Maybe Georgia, though you'll have the same problem of humid summers and single party rule.
posted by crazy with stars at 7:12 PM on August 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


Apart from some minor discrepancies, I was pretty sure you were talking about Wisconsin, so: not here!
posted by teremala at 7:26 PM on August 28, 2016 [4 favorites]


Response by poster: Define "unusually cold and snowy winters." I mean, I'm not going to recommend Buffalo. Winter here is SRS BISNS. But it would probably help others to know whether, to you, DC has cold and snowy winters, or where you'd draw that line.

DC style winter would be fine, but Chicago or Minneapolis level snow and darkness just isn't a situation where I would do well. Buffalo was actually my mental example for a place that would probably make me run home with my tail between my legs by New Year's.
posted by Chuck Barris at 7:26 PM on August 28, 2016


DC style winter would be fine, but Chicago or Minneapolis level snow and darkness just isn't a situation where I would do well. Buffalo was actually my mental example for a place that would probably make me run home with my tail between my legs by New Year's.

If winter's a thing for you, then Minneapolis probably wouldn't work, but I think it's probably different from what you're thinking - it gets a decent amount of snow, but maybe half of what Buffalo gets, and although the days are short, winter is actually fairly sunny. I think the cold would be much more of a problem for most people than snow or sunlight - you have three months in a row where the average high is below freezing; a week or two straight with highs below 20 wouldn't be odd.
posted by LionIndex at 7:46 PM on August 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


Response by poster: you have three months in a row where the average high is below freezing; a week or two straight with highs below 20 wouldn't be odd.

Yeah, I don't have what it takes to handle that.
posted by Chuck Barris at 7:50 PM on August 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm biased, because I live here, but I'll second Virginia. You might find small cities like Charlottesville, Harrisonburg, or Roanoke to be quite amenable. And I wouldn't rule out the Northern Virginia suburbs--good schools and teachers are valued, and while the cost of housing seems high in comparison with the rest of the country, salaries are commensurate. Regarding commuting, the way to make it bearable (I speak from decades of experience) is to either live close to your work and/or have a reverse commute. Oh, and we're terrible wimps about snow, so the schools will close and you'll be safe at home when the snow falls.
posted by apartment dweller at 7:50 PM on August 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


DC style winter would be fine, but Chicago or Minneapolis level snow and darkness just isn't a situation where I would do well.

Illinois is also one of the states that is having MAJOR pension problems, so definitely cross it completely off your list.
posted by MsMolly at 7:55 PM on August 28, 2016 [5 favorites]


Colorado may meet your criteria. Besides being an unbelievably gorgeous state with stunning mountain landscapes, winters in southern Colorado (which is more of a desert) are less severe than other areas of the Midwest. Colorado seems to be doing pretty well for itself economically, and it's a blue state. Traffic even in Denver does not compare to traffic in DC in my experience.
posted by a strong female character at 8:32 PM on August 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


These are the states that have reciprocity with MS in accepting teaching credentials. I would advise you to choose one of those, just to make the process easier.

To make the process even easier: the only states not listed there are Alaska, Virginia, Kentucky, Minnesota, and Iowa. Not sure what the status of DC is.
posted by Johnny Assay at 8:46 PM on August 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


I teach in Washington and the legislature has been deadlocked and unwilling to move on the issue of fairly funding education across the state. The state supreme court has given the legislature a few years to get their act together but they continue to stall. However, if you chose to live out of the metropolitan puget sound area you would find that your teaching paycheck will go further. Teachers are paid on a schedule that is the same across the state, but some districts can afford (larger tax base) to pay a higher salary or to offer extra days of pay based on all the extra time we put into our classrooms anyway. If you don't need mountains the Tri-Cities area (Richland, Pasco, Kennewick) area is hot and dry in the summer and the winters are pretty mild. They are growing and adding schools in each district (elementary) every year. Wenatchee is in the central part of the state and has moderate summers (some hot spells, but dry) and average snow in the winter. You are close to the mountains if you want to go skiing, etc. Most people love the lifestyle provided in the state. There are mountains to climb, rivers to kayak, and a very outdoorsy vibe. Humidity on the east side of the Cascade mountains is pretty low so even when it gets hot it isn't as stifling as it would be in the south. Spokane is a great city too. Teaching jobs are a bit harder to find there because of having so many colleges in the city or close by that churn out teachers each year. You could go and root for the Gonzaga Bulldogs during the NCAA basketball tournament too. ;) Our college tuition rates did get lowered a bit this year, but are higher than they should be. We do have a great community college system throughout the state as well where the tuition is lower and often kids live at home for the first two years to help keep costs down before venturing off to the four-year universities (which are outstanding). As noted earlier we do not have a income tax. We do have sales tax. The voters of the state have repeatedly voted down initiatives to set up an income tax. I don't see that happening any time soon.

Good luck in your hunt. I tried to give you both the good and the bad about moving to Washington. Oh, and if you are interested in what the state salary schedule is (LEAP Schedule) you should be able to find it on the www.ospi.gov website. That would give you an idea of the base salary depending on your years of experience and credits. You could also investigate the procedure for getting certified in the state.
posted by OkTwigs at 9:09 PM on August 28, 2016


Johnny Assay, Virginia *is* on the linked reciprocity list.
posted by apartment dweller at 10:05 PM on August 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


Here are the states where pensions are constitutionally protected with handy map. Illinois, for example, is a tire fire in terms of state budgets right now, but the state supreme court has ruled over and over again (like seven times in the past four-ish years alone) that the legislature is forbidden from reducing pension benefits. Your pension is a much surer thing in Illinois than a currently-non-tire-fire state without constitutional protections. (Don't pick Illinois, though, it's one of three states where teachers give up the right to federal social security benefits to participate in the teacher retirement system which is a crap deal if you've already accrued benefits.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:57 PM on August 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


We moved from North Carolina to Ohio for your same reasons and we really like it. Last winter was a mild one, so it can get kinda snowy, especially with lake effect snow. We are outside the snow belt though, in Northeast Ohio. I think you might like it here!
posted by chainsofreedom at 5:14 AM on August 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


MA is pretty difficult to get a teaching certificate in, but there are some areas (near the NH border North of Boston for instance) where you can find a very decently paying teaching job in a low income community. Seems to fit most of criteria except for this "the local elections are more than just a fight over who controls a patronage system" -- not sure that isn't true of all local elections in red or blue states tbh.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:33 AM on August 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


MA winters really aren't that bad if you're not in Boston itself imo. They are cold but people are competent at dealing with large amounts of snow in most suburban towns.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:36 AM on August 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


Since people keep bringing up DC, I can tell you as a resident of DC that you definitely do not want to move here. Unbearably humid summers, higher cost of living than pretty much anywhere else in the country, a budget that is constantly being meddled with by congress, and yeah, the traffic really is that bad.
posted by capricorn at 9:30 AM on August 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


If you don't want humidity, you're looking for something west of the Rocky Mountains. Unfortunately, the West is not especially noted for valuing (or paying) its teachers, generally speaking. On the other hand, neither is Mississippi, so maybe anyplace would be a relative improvement.
Your list sounds suspiciously like someone who wants to move to northern California, but not the Bay Area to me. I'm going to guess something around Sacramento or Chico, but maybe Eureka?
Relatively inexpensive places not in California possibly worth a look: Reno, Tri-Cities/Walla Walla, Hermiston/The Dalles, Spokane, Yakima, Medford, Flagstaff.
posted by willpie at 11:58 AM on August 29, 2016


I was coming in to recommend findyourspot.com, but it looks like the website is down. I used this survey-type approach when selecting a place to move about 8 years ago, and ended up moving to one of the cities it recommended. I love the city, and I've been here ever since. It was a rating scale based on preferences for education, climate, politics, etc.

I wonder if there are other sites that are as comprehensive? Perhaps someone can recommend one.
posted by onecircleaday at 5:14 PM on August 29, 2016


Kudos to leaving MS. It's a great idea. As soon as I was old enough to consider my adult life, I knew I'd leave for college and never go back, and that's exactly what happened.

I eventually put down roots in Houston, and while I love this town if you're looking to escape long humid summers this burg ain't for you.

More inland Texas locations might be more appealing, though -- perhaps not Austin (cost of living is kinda nuts there), but maybe San Antonio. SA is small enough that living in a rural satellite community is totally a thing that people do even though it's a bigger metro area than anything in Mississippi (~2.3M). Plus, that part of the state is really lovely.
posted by uberchet at 12:53 PM on August 31, 2016


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