Phila. Board Approves Residency Rule
Philadelphia, the country's sixth largest school district, has now joined the ranks of the small but growing number of districts that impose residency requirements on their newly hired employees.
Last month, the city's board of education passed a resolution, effective immediately, requiring that all new employees "shall become residents of the City of Philadelphia within one year from the date of employment, as a condition for continued employment." The rule does not affect the district's 27,000 current employees, officials said.
Chicago, Boston, and Pittsburgh also have similar residency requirements, all passed within the last decade.
Board members who supported the Philadelphia requirement argued that the city should reap tax benefits from the salaries it pays its school employees. The city would collect nearly $1 million in additional wage taxes if the 6,200 employees who presently live outside the city were to move in, according to district financial estimates.
Representatives of the local teachers' union, who have consistently opposed residency requirements, denounced the new resolution as a political move by the board that ignores the students' interests.
"They should hire the best people that come in, and not base [the decision] on where they live," said Al-bert Fondy, president of the Pennsylvania Federation of Teachers (pft), which represents teachers in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. "They should be concerned about quality. But this is just a political thing."
Leon Shore, another pft spokesman, said that "political pressure was placed on the school board by city hall" to provide the additional source of funds.
But Mr. Fondy said the union does not intend to call a strike over the unpopular measure, since it will affect only about 200 new employees this fall. The Philadelphia system has been laying off employees in recent years, except in such fields as special education and English-as-a-Second-Language, the officials said.
Residency requirements have been an issue in Pennsylvania ever since 1972, when the Philadelphia school board first passed such a resolution. The pft succeeded in blocking the 1972 resolution with a court injunction; in 1981, it succeeded in pressing the legislature for a law barring residency requirements in all the state's districts except in the two major cities.
"We couldn't get the votes for Pittsburgh and Philadelphia," said Mr. Fondy.
Residency restrictions vary in other cities where they have been enacted, but all apply only to new employees. Boston's five-year-old regulation requires that new employees be district residents but allows them to move outside the dis-trict after they are hired, a spokesman for the school system said.
Chicago's plan, which has been in effect since September 1980, created a review board that grants residency waivers to teachers with specialties that are in short supply, such as special education, said John Wren, an attorney for the board of education. He said board members had approved the measure because they thought "teachers would relate better to their students if they understood the problems of the city."
The Philadelphia resolution allows the superintendent to waive the requirement if the board is first notified in writing and a majority approves the action.
The Lansing, Mich., school board has imposed a residency requirement on new administrators, rather than on teachers. Board members thought that administrators who campaign for higher school taxes should have to share the tax burden with voters, said a district spokesman.
There have been two landmark court cases on residency requirements that set the basic guidelines, said James Ward, legal researcher for the American Federation of Teachers. A U.S. Supreme Court decision (Francis McCarthy v. Philadelphia Civil Service), in 1976 upheld the right of cities to impose residency requirements on new city employees only, not on current employees, he said.