Residency Fraud in D.C. Schools Tough to Identify, Police

Until recently, the idea of commuter parents using public schools downtown and at the District's edge didn't draw much outrage, writes Bill Turque at the Washington Post. However, as waiting lists swell, so has the chatter among parent groups and on the listservs.

Three members of the public appeared Thursday to testify at a hearing on D.C. Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown's bill to tighten residency enforcement. They were outnumbered by the government representatives summoned by Brown to testify, writes Turque.

Board member Mary Lord, who was one of the representatives summoned, said residency became a "pet concern" when she began seeing out-of-state plates in front of her newly renovated neighborhood school, Francis-Stevens Education Campus in Dupont Circle.

"Of six cars at the curb, four would have Maryland plates," Lord said. "I must have jotted down four dozen license plates –including one car that got booted one Friday morning when the parent was inside dropping off her child."

The current law provides penalties for families found to be from out of town, including fines and assessment of non-resident tuition. But investigations are labor intensive and cases difficult to prove, making for spotty–and sometimes non-existent—enforcement, writes Turque.

Of 193 DCPS students investigated for using false addresses to attend city schools last year, 83 were determined to be non-residents, writes Lisa Gartner at the Washington Examiner.

"It is beyond the capacity of our school system to actually collect tuition from parents intent on heating the system," says DCPS chief of Schools John Davis. "In fact, as an educational body, we would err every time on the side of educating children whose parents may be dishonest or simply unable to comply."

"If people think they can send their kids to schools and there's no consequence for it, then they're just going to send them," said Brown.

His bill, co-sponsored by 10 other council members, designates the OSSE general counsel as lead official, and requires that violations be referred to the Office of the Attorney General.

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