In his budget address last week, Gov. Scott Walker cited plans to end residency requirements throughout the state of Wisconsin. While only taking up a paragraph of the 600-page document, the prospect of ending residency requirements has been one of the most controversial parts of Walker’s budget plans.
Residency requirements stipulate public employees must reside in the city where they work. The ending of residency requirements is expected to affect 127 municipalities including Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s largest city.
These requirements exist to make sure government employees are involved in their community outside of their job. While many cities, including Madison, have ended their residency requirements for most government positions, Milwaukee has had a strict residency requirement law on the books for 75 years.
Decisions about residency requirements are best handled by the municipalities themselves — not all of Wisconsin’s cities are the same. It makes sense to end residency requirements for the less populated areas in Wisconsin, where people with the needed skills and abilities are not always available in the pool of residents.
However, in larger communities such as Milwaukee, the talents the city needs exist within its limits and can be put to better use by having people conveniently located within them.
A perfect example of this would be the teachers in the Milwaukee Public Schools system. In 2012, the graduation rate for the Milwaukee Public Schools system was 62.8 percent — far behind the 87 percent average in the state of Wisconsin. The Milwaukee Public Schools system graduation rate has always been much less than that of the rest of the state.
People often debate how to get children to commit to their education. I found through my own and many other’s educational experiences that there is no better way to get kids to care about their education than by having a committed teacher who is able to be there for their students.
If residency requirements are ended everywhere in the state of Wisconsin, each individual city will suffer in its own way. Our small communities will no longer be able to rely on the certainty that some of the major contributors to their community will be easily accessible. Some essential positions, like chief of police, superintendent and fire chief, can best serve communities they live in.
However, no community would be more affected than Milwaukee. The city is unlike any other city in the state of Wisconsin, and the 75-year long residency requirement is necessary in order to ensure its continued growth.
Milwaukee is Wisconsin’s largest city, and, to truly understand what is most needed for its development, its public employees and officials must live within its limits.
Jared Mehre (email@example.com) is a sophomore majoring in political science, sociology and legal studies.