Why it’s bad for schools, and why it won’t go away
This study focuses on the Milwaukee teacher residency requirement. The requirement holds that, as a condition of employment, all newly hired Milwaukee Public School District (MPS) teachers must live within the borders of the city. Adopted in 1977 by joint agreement of the MPS Board of School Directors and the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association (MTEA), the requirement gets little attention in discussions of education policy. This is regrettable, since evidence from several sources suggests that the requirement has an adverse effect on teacher quality within MPS and, hence, on the quality of education MPS provides. In addition, the residency requirement has failed to accomplish the goals its proponents identified in their drive to require teachers to live in the City. Because the requirement has adverse effects on the quality of education within MPS, and because it has failed to provide offsetting benefits, we recommend that the requirement be rescinded.
Rescinding the teacher residency requirement would not provide a “silver bullet” solution for all the problems facing MPS. (We wish it would.) But getting rid of the requirement — letting teachers live where they want to live, so long as they do their jobs well — would generate long-term benefits for the district and the students and parents it serves. Rescinding the residency requirement also would save money and, over the long term, make a positive contribution to the city’s tax base. The benefits would come into play almost immediately and have positive effects well into the future.