State may dump Milwaukee’s foolish school employee residency requirement

December 21, 2012

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Steve Gunn Steve Gunn

Steve, Editor-in-chief of EAGnews, joined in 2009. Previously, he was a newspaper journalist.
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MILWAUKEE – Milwaukee Public Schools needs a lot of teachers and administrators to fill an anticipated 750 vacancies next fall.

stupid idea awardAnd with a miserable academic record, district officials are eager to fill many of those positions with high quality candidates.

But the district’s stupid residency rule is standing in the way. It requires new teachers and administrators to move to the district within 12 months of being hired.

The school board recently passed on a logical proposal to modify the requirement. Now a state senator wants to repeal the policy altogether so the district can get more quality teachers into classrooms, regardless of where they live.

“Only one school (district) in the state limits the pool of teachers it can hire from and that’s the Milwaukee Public School District,” said Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills.

The school district residency policy was established in the 1970s as part of an effort to keep middle class families from fleeing to the suburbs and taking their property tax dollars with them.

As the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel put it, the rule has “been unpopular with many workers for years.” That means it will probably be even less popular with teaching candidates, who may choose another district where they have more personal freedom to live where they want.

Superintendent Gregory Thornton recently offered a compromise, extending the time limit for new employees to move to the district to three years.

“There’s no better way to get them here than offer them some flexibility on the front end,” Thornton said.

But a school board committee deadlocked 2-2 on his proposal, and it may not go anywhere.

Luckily for the district, state lawmakers in Madison seem to care more about recruiting quality teachers for Milwaukee than the Milwaukee  board does.

Darling recently announced that she would introduce legislation to rid the Milwaukee district of the residency requirement altogether, and Gov. Scott Walker has indicated he would sign such a bill, according to the Sentinel Journal.

“They desperately need teachers there, so why are they limiting potential candidates?” Darling said.

Ironically, one supporter of the policy recently made a very good argument for overturning it.

Board member Larry Miller said extending the residency deadline by two years would “be a quick relief and a long-term quagmire” because many new employees would work in the district for two years, then take jobs in suburban schools.

Duh. The answer is clearly to dump the requirement, so more quality teachers will come and stay. That’s not so hard to wrap your brain around, is it Mr. Miller?

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