St. Louis firefighters want school choice

St. Louis firefighters want the right to live outside city limits so their children can go to good schools The city’s schools are about to lose accreditation. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports:

ST. LOUIS — Twice a week after his 24-hour shift as a firefighter, Dan Lemmon works an additional 10 hours delivering freight on an 18-wheeler.

It’s not to raise money for holiday gifts or a Florida vacation — it’s to keep his kids out of the St. Louis Public Schools.

Many St. Louis firefighters — whose primary job keeps them tethered to home addresses in the city — are drawing second paychecks to pay tuition at private and parochial schools.

. . . “I’d be living out in Fenton and sending my kids to one of the best school districts in Missouri — and not paying for it,” said Lemmon, who now spends more than $12,000 a year to send three children to Catholic school.

The municipal workers’ union also is thinking of seeking an end to the residency rule. In 2005, St. Louis police officers were granted the right to live outside the city.

Via Education Gadfly.

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  1. I am not sure I entirely back the firefighters. It seems to me to be a defensible position to require that city workers live in the city.

    Of course if city firefighters quit in droves, and the city has problems replacing them, then I am sure that they would reconsider the practice.

    There must be some decent schools in St Louis, right?

  2. The article seems to suggest that the entire St. Louis school system is accredited — or disaccredited — as a single entity.

    Is that true?

    In Los Angeles, each school applies for its own accreditation (though continuation schools used to all be accredited together)….

    Is it done differently in the Midwest? Or are they referring to some district-level accreditation I don’t know about?

    I sympathize with the St. Louis firefighters regardless of the accreditation status…. Imagine a city teacher required to live within the city limits with a fire department that could not provide basic services!

    If the credits from a city high school are not recognized by colleges then no one’s children ought to be compelled to attend those schools.

  3. Mark Roulo says:

    It seems to me to be a defensible position to require that city workers live in the city.

    I suspect that this requirement is only for “front line responders,” not for every city employee (though I could be wrong). The rationale for wanting the front line responders living locally is that in an emergency they can *ALL* go on duty. If some of them live 2-3 hours from the city (not uncommon for firefighters), they may not be able to get back to the city for many hours (especially if the disaster they are being brought in to address has screwed up the roads).

    Where I live, we have no requirement that the firefighters live in the city (which is reasonable … it is a small city and housing is quite expensive). The older firefighters worry about what will happen if there is a big crisis, and 2/3 of the shifts are hours away …

    -Mark Roulo

  4. JP in St. Louis says:

    The residency requirement for St. Louis applies to all persons on the city p(l)ayroll, not just first-responders. The police department (which is run by a state board, not locally) recently received approval for officers with a certain amount of seniority to live outside the city limits.

    The (deserved) loss of accreditation is on a district-wide basis. Some of the magnet schools have a decent reputation. Admission to magnet schools is by lottery.

    There MAY be options for city residents to have their children bussed to schools in the county, but that will depend on the county schools themselves. Each district in the surrounding county will apparently decide for themselves whether any/how many city children will be accepted. The state board which stripped SLPS of accreditation does not have the authority to force county schools to accept city kids.

  5. Walter E. Wallis says:

    The downside of everybody live in was demonstrated in New Orleans, where emergency workers had to chose between their job and their family. Some peninsula cities are considering dorms so that workers living out of town can overnight and avoid the commute.

  6. wayne martin says:
    St. Louis schools lose accreditation
    Friday, March 23, 2007
    By BETSY TAYLOR ~ The Associated Press

    ST. LOUIS — Over the angry objections of St. Louis students, Missouri’s State Board of Education moved Thursday to take over the city’s troubled school district, hoping to turn around years of budgetary problems and academic failure.

    The board’s 5-1 decision came during a contentious meeting in Jefferson City that was briefly halted during an outburst by students opposed to the takeover. One student was subdued with pepper spray.

    “This district has been in decline for decades,” he said. “It may take a decade or more to reverse that.”

    Some parents, teachers and students fear the takeover will damage the future of children in the district and make it more difficult for city students to get into college. A group of students staged a sit-in at City Hall for five days last week. And their anger spilled over at Thursday’s meeting.

    Hmm … the comments of the parents don’t seem very rational in the light to the failings of the district. Seems “tribalism” is alive and well in St. Louis ..

  7. Mark Roulo says:

    The residency requirement for St. Louis applies to all persons on the city p(l)ayroll, not just first-responders.

    Wow! Interesting and crazy. I wouldn’t take a job that *required* that I sell my house and purchase another one. I wonder how this effects their ability to hire people.

    -Mark R.

  8. market solution would be a premium to have people on call locally (and paying for education, it seems)

  9. First of all, the schools in the city are all one district and all gain or earn accreditation together.

    But if the firefighter in the story can get a county district to take his kids AND he can arrange transportation, next year the city schools will have to pay his children’s tuition to a county school that will accept them.

    Even worse is the situation of children with special needs, since there is a separate school district in the county which provides services to students in their local school district; because the City of St. Louis seceded long ago from St. Louis county, many children must live in a separate house in the county, away from their city employee parents, in order to receive appropriate services.

    And really, what does it say about a city that it has to REQUIRE its employees to live within its boundaries? Anyone who lives or works in the city, by the way, pays the city a 1% income tax on their earnings.

    I once lived in the city of St. Louis for a year. My car was stolen TWICE in four months, and a woman was mugged and murdered outside a restaurant a block from my apartment. There is no way I would live there in any case, much less after I had children. As it was, I shook the dust from my sandals after leaving there and never looked back. But I still keep up with the situation there, because you just can’t make stuff like what goes on there up.