Report: Nonresidents enroll with impunity

Parents who live outside the District of Columbia and illegally enroll their children in D.C. public schools aren’t running much of a risk even if they’re caught, according to figures put together by Deputy Mayor for Education De’Shawn Wright.

Of the 487 students investigated by the DCPS residency office between 2007 and 2010, a little less than half (235) were determined to be nonresidents. Of those, 53 were assessed nonresident tuition, which is equal to the uniform per pupil level of at least $8,945.

Families that DCPS collected from after they were caught: zero.

Wright, who assembled the data at the request of D.C Council member Sekou Biddle (D-At-Large), said in a letter that the nonexistent collection rate was among the many “challenges” faced by the residency office, staffed by two people who cope with “a very sizeable caseload.” Wright did not say whether any paid the $500 fine that the current law provides.

Families are required to produce proof of residency (such as a pay stub or proof of government assistance with a current D.C. address) with their enrollment application. But parents at many D.C. public schools on Capitol Hill say that vehicles with Maryland plates are a conspicuous presence. The assumption is that many of the parents work on the hill or downtown.

The residency issue gained a higher profile last month when the fourth grader who brought cocaine to Thomson Elementary School was found to be living in Prince George’s County. Last week, D.C. Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown (D) introduced legislation that would establish a hotline for reports of residency fraud and boost the fine from $500 to $2000.

Bill Turque, who covers Montgomery County government and politics, has spent more than thirty years as a reporter and editor for The Washington Post, Newsweek, the Dallas Times Herald and The Kansas City Star.

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