February 13, 2008

Sharing the Pain in Tiverton

Justin Katz

I don't support residency requirements for such public employees as teachers. It's nice to think that your children are being taught by your neighbors (as inaccurate as that characterization of fellow townspeople may be), but schools should find the best teachers they can, and teachers should be free to decide where to live.

That said, my disagreement with Tiverton School Committee member Leonard Wright about whether it's more fair to "set teachers back" based on benefits or to set taxpayers back based on taxes made me wonder how many of the town's teachers are in both groups. I offer these charts with no real conclusions attached; they're just interesting.

I'm curious what this data looks like for other towns. That information wouldn't happen to be centralized (or at least readily accessible) anywhere, would it?

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I don't have the data for school departments,so I can't help with the precise question, but I did peek at the data on commuting that I cited in an earlier comment about Providence's contribution to the state economy, and found this interesting:

Justin's percentage of Tiverton teachers who live in Tiverton (43%) is pretty close to the percentage of all Tiverton workers who live in Tiverton (41%).

By contrast, 15.6% of Tiverton residents are employed in Tiverton.

Posted by: Thomas Schmeling at February 13, 2008 4:56 PM


Where's that data located? It sounds like you mean all commuters, including private sector. Public sector workers would be more relevant to my inquiry.

Posted by: Justin Katz at February 13, 2008 5:07 PM


Yes, that includes private data as well. While I understand that you're interested in public employees, I think the comparison is interesting. If teachers tend to be residents at just about the same rate as all employees, that's one thing. If 75% of the total workers in a community are also residents, but only 25% of the teachers are, that represents a clear statistical difference, for which we might want an explanation, though it's an open question whether it matters substantively.

Posted by: Thomas Schmeling at February 13, 2008 6:03 PM

But my second pie shows that 83% of non-teacher employees in Tiverton are residents of the town. I've collected no evidence one way or another, but my sense is that the number for other town employees is likely closer to the 83% than the teachers' 43%.

Private sector jobs are wholly different in that they typically have less of a local focus (indeed, may do no business with people in the town whatsoever), are not hired by people who are representatives of the town, and do not negotiate salaries that come (without consumerist consent) from the people of the town.

Again, I don't support residence requirements, but I don't think it's accurate to compare (for example) a Fall River plumber who works for a Tiverton company servicing clients in Newport to a Fall River teacher working in Tiverton.

Posted by: Justin Katz at February 13, 2008 6:48 PM


Well, I am not sure that this needs to be a debate, but since you raised it, and I can't resist a debate, here goes:

1) There are good reasons for teachers to live and work in different places, just like everyone else . I might teach in Central Falls but I would not live there. (no offense intended to Central Falls, but I need more trees and less concrete). I might teach in Barrington, but I could not afford to live there. Surpisingly, teacher salaries in Barrington don't match home prices! So why treat teachers differently from any other employee in a free labor market?

2) I don't get the rationale of treating teachers differently from anyone else. It makes perfect sense to require that your Mayor, City Council, School Board, etc. are town residents because they make decisions about policy and how to spend public money. They should be among the people whose lives their decisions effect. Teachers aren't like that. We don't require that teachers have children themselves, do we?

3) As for the difference between teachers and other public employees, maybe it's just easier to find a public school secretary, or a public works truck mechanic or driver, among the Tiverton population than it is to find a teacher with a B.A or or MA. and if Tiverton requires that newly hired teachers live there, you will lose many, many highly qualified people. That seems like bad policy. (Again, no offense to Tiverton). Maybe (though I am loathe to suggest it and am in no position to assert it) many public employees in Tiverton get jobs through local social/political connections, but teachers are hired on professional qualification alone. In that case, you should be proud that that your teachers come from elsewhere.

By the way, would you suggest hiring a Tiverton resident for a teaching job over a Fall River resident with better qualifications? I suspect not.

In the end, I don't think it's an issue to worry about.

Posted by: Thomas Schmeling at February 13, 2008 11:05 PM


I don't know how many times I have to repeat my lack of support for residence requirements for teachers. Why do you keep arguing as if I haven't said that at every stage of this discussion?

It oughtn't be surprising that I'm thinking largely of unionization in this. 57% of Tiverton teachers come from outside of town (a majority of those from towns that are wealthier) and then use strong-arm tactics like work-to-rule negotiate contracts beyond what the town can afford, ensuring that taxes go up as much as is possible.

Remember that I began this discussion pointing to the question of whether it's fair that the highest-paid teachers end up seeing a bigger increase in health insurance payments than their increase in pay.

Posted by: Justin Katz at February 14, 2008 6:22 AM
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