The District has been trying to save a few dollars by reducing the number of special education students in expensive private schools at public expense.

According to a new report, that includes 118 students whose families don’t even live in the city.

Those are among the findings of a panel in the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) that studied suspected cases of residency fraud in 2011 enrollment data. D.C. is expected to spend $110 million in fiscal year 2013 to support 1,700 special education students in private settings --where annual fees run anywhere from $30,000 to $125,000 and up--because it was decided that the city can’t meet their needs. The Gray administration, which is trying to improve services at neighborhood schools, would like to shrink the number to 1,100 by 2014.

On Wednesday the state education agency reported 276 confirmed instances of students in the system illegally: 126 in DCPS, 32 in public charter schools and 118 in pricey “non-public placements.”

That’s less than one-half of one percent of the city’s 78,469 public and public charter students. But the costs mount quickly. Assuming an average of $75,000 in tuition for the 118 non-public students, the tab comes to $8.8 million a year. Add the minimum amount of per-student funding under District formula ($9,000) for the other 158, and you’re looking at a minimum of an additional $1.4 million.

“Education is free, but not without cost,” D.C. State Superintendent Hosanna Mahaley said in a statement. OSSE will press the families involved to pay non-resident tuition and make referrals to the D.C. Attorney General for collection and prosecution, if necessary, Mahaley said.

You can look at the OSSE documents here.