What's more important to the education of our children?
Having the highest quality teachers, or having teachers who live near the school? Having teachers who want to live within a district, or teachers who are forced to? Having employees who are living the lifestyle they want to live, or forcing them to adopt one they don't want?
In an article Sunday looking into where Schenectady school employees live, The Gazette found that only about 10 percent of teachers and less than 7 percent of administrators lived within the district boundaries.
That led to suggestions that perhaps districts should require teachers and administrators to live in a district as a condition of employment.
Some say teachers who live within the district would spend more time there and have a deeper knowledge of the conditions their students, the parents and the taxpayers face.
But there's no guarantee that’s exclusive to teachers living within a district. Dedicated teachers will make it a point to be involved.
Most teachers already commit to serving beyond regular classroom hours serving as tutors and mentors, coaching a sport, running a club, chaperoning dances, and attending concerts, sporting events and other school activities.
For those teachers, where they hang their hat at night is inconsequential.
And just because someone lives outside the district doesn't mean they live very far away. They can live in one of the surrounding communities and have only a short commute.
Another argument that’s been made for a residency requirement: Schenectady taxpayers are funding a portion of the teachers' salaries, yet those teachers are paying mortgages and rent and taxes to support other school districts. But that works both ways. How many teachers and administrators in Niskayuna, Mohonasen or Scotia-Glenville commute from homes within the Schenectady district?
Is having employees live within a district a good idea? Sure. But it's also impractical.
If every district had a residency requirement, how could a husband and wife who work in different districts comply with that requirement? What if a teacher moves from one local district to another during their career? Should those teachers be forced to uproot their families and force their children to change schools for a requirement that has little proven impact on the quality of education that teacher provides?
Another argument against: New York appears on the verge of a teacher shortage. As districts compete for the best and the brightest, those districts that impose extra restrictions on potential employees risk losing those them to other districts. Schools should be focused on finding the best employees, not ones who live nearby.
In New Jersey a couple of years ago, the government couldn't even sustain its policy that school employees live within the state because it found teachers wouldn’t move from New York and Pennsylvania to teach there.
There is something to be said for people living within the community where they work, so districts should, when possible, provide incentives, information and opportunities for employees to find housing within the school district’s boundaries.
But while residency should be encouraged, it should not be required.