Would you lie and cheat to get your child into a better school?

Would you lie to enroll your child in a better school system?

AJC education reporter Rose French recently wrote about a crackdown by metro Atlanta districts on students who fraudulently attend schools outside their legal enrollment zones.

I am aware of several past cases in Decatur, which is among the districts resorting to hiring someone to monitor enrollment fraud. I have heard of people “renting” rooms from a Decatur homeowner to establish residency. I know people who used their own parents’ or grandparents’ addresses, sometimes even transferring legal guardianship. There was a highly publicized case a few years back of a business owner using his Decatur business address to enroll his kids.

Art for story on kids first day back to school

Few systems criminally prosecute, preferring to send the kids back to their home schools. It became national news in 2011 when an Ohio district chose to do so and mother Kelley Williams-Bolar earned brief jail time for using her father’s address and forging documents to enroll her daughters in a higher performing district. (Ohio Gov. John Kasich reduced her sentence of 10 days of jail time.)

Last year, the AJC reported a fourth of the Grady High School team used false addresses or forged documents to play on the team and attend the school with the complicity of some APS employees. An APS investigation concluded 14 students who played on the team didn’t live in the Midtown Atlanta school‘s enrollment area and had to withdraw from Grady. The Georgia High School Athletic Association put Grady on probation for a season, made it forfeit its victories and barred it from the 2014 state playoffs.

According to French:

Enrollment fraud, a growing practice that has districts putting more resources into policing it, involves students and parents lying about where they live. Some do it to attend higher-performing schools, while others want to play in successful high school athletic programs outside their attendance zones.

It costs Georgia school systems roughly $8,000 to $13,000 to educate each student. Local property taxes supply part of that cost, but districts don’t get that property-tax revenue for students who actually live elsewhere. Atlanta Public Schools pegs the cost to taxpayers for students who reside outside the city of Atlanta, for example, at $11,379.

The city of Decatur’s school board recently approved hiring a full-time staff member to monitor enrollment fraud, with officials investigating 120 to 160 students per year suspected of lying about their residency to attend the fast-growing, high-performing school system. About 30 are asked to leave each year. However, officials believe a lot more are likely to be attending illegally.

In Fulton, school board members have made proof-of-residency requirements more stringent. Fulton reviews more than 150 cases each year, officials say. Fulton and Atlanta have hired residency police officers who investigate enrollment fraud, and APS is considering more ways to eliminate it, school officials say.

Education observers say the practice underscores the desperation felt by many parents, who want their children to attend higher-performing schools but may not be able to buy a house or live in more affluent neighborhoods with higher property taxes that typically have better schools.

“What you have are parents who happen to live adjoining to one of these quality school systems, and they want the best for their children, and they can’t afford it, ” said Dan Domenech, executive director for the national School Superintendents Association. “So what they do is try to figure out a way to get their child into that school system. Maybe they have an aunt or an uncle or a relative and they use that address as a way to get that child in the school system. But the child doesn’t actually live there.

“In a way, you can’t blame parents for wanting the best for their kids, ” he added. “But at the same time, you have to understand it is theft of service. They are trying to get something for nothing in a way.”

 

Reader Comments 0

221 comments
LSWalk
LSWalk

I believe if you own a house and pay County taxes, and you have a good reason that you want your child to attend another school, they should be allowed to. Some children just do not fit in at some schools. I do not believe that children should be punished because their parents are less fortunate. Rich people use their money and power to get what they want everyday. But if you are less fortunate it is frowned upon and exposed. You even receive jail time for wanting better for your children. Children are committing suicide everyday because they are bullied and do not fit in. Is that really worth taking children from happiness.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

Still waiting for the "throw the book at those lying, cheating parents" comments from the people who condemned the APS educator test cheaters.


What did more harm to school children? Falsely improving a child's test score, or teaching your son or daughter that it is okay to lie, cheat, and steal to get something better for yourself?

Starik
Starik

@AvgGeorgian Teachers and administrators committed crimes for their own personal gain. Parents commit their "crime" for the sake of their kids.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Starik @AvgGeorgian


Oh, If you falsify your tax return to get money to buy your kid a better car, its OK. Got it.


Maybe some APS cheaters were paying for private school for their kids with the bonus money - they should have used that as a defense.

Starik
Starik

@AvgGeorgian @Starik Education is not in the same league as a nice car, or any car.  It's just below a life-saving organ transplant in importance.

eulb
eulb

@Starik I agree that education is lifesaving, but sticking with your transplant analogy for a minute, would you condone lying and cheating to obtain a transplant?  The honest patient who is next in line may die waiting for a donor while the cheater receives the lifesaving transplant.  Which one is worthy of your organs? 

eulb
eulb

When parents lie to get their kids into out-of-district schools, they are making their kids complicit in that lie and teaching them that it's ok to lie to gain an unjust advantage. That's a pretty bad family lesson.  I'm glad my own parents never put me in that situation.  

In families that do that sort of thing, I wonder what else they lie about. Is the information on their tax returns truthful?  Resume and job applications?  Applications for food stamps, disability benefits, housing, loans, accident and insurance claims, ...?


When a school catches a parent who lies in order to enroll their child, should the school alert other agencies and prompt them to review that family's tax returns and benefits applications for evidence of fraud?

Alphare
Alphare

I don't know why so many commentators and government officials keep mentioning property tax: some families paid little tax but they live a good school district, while others pay tons of property tax and their schools are crappy.

Starik
Starik

@Alphare Exactly so. As a general rule Georgia people love low taxes and accept poor services.  Taxpayers in Atlanta and DeKalb pay plenty of taxes, enough to produce good schools, but too many employees, including teachers and administrators are overpaid and unqualified.  These districts concentrate on the welfare of the staff. not the kids. 


If the kids want to learn and the teachers are good you have a good school.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Starik


Instead of trying to privatize schools and give tax money to private schools, they should pass laws that require a certain high percentage of state tax funds be spent in the classroom. 


Use teacher salaries to competitively attract the best teachers. 


Contact your legislator to demand this and lower class sizes to improve school quality.

Starik
Starik

@AvgGeorgian @Starik There's a problem with that. Paying teachers more to attract a better qualified teaching staff I also agree with.  Tax me please.  The problem is the race-oriented people will object.  Many of the current teachers in Atlanta are not qualified.  They don't know the subject they're teaching, and can't teach their kids proper English because they can't speak it themselves.  Many college degrees are from colleges in the lower half of quality rankings, and the teachers are in the bottom half of class ranking in college.  Degrees are often from internet for profit sham institutions.  If you fire some experienced teachers because they have the speech patterns of John Lewis thee will be lawsuits and shrieks of racism.  I like John Lewis. I respect him. I'm grateful for what he did in the Civil Rights Movement.  I'd vote for him if he lived in my district. I would not want him teaching my kids.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Starik @AvgGeorgian


You can raise pay and use attrition to improve teacher quality. There is a large turnover from teachers quitting and retiring.

Starik
Starik

@AvgGeorgian @Starik There are a large number of teachers who are far from retirement, but shouldn't have been hired in the first place.  If somebody's close to retirement a place outside the classroom can be found for them in some cases. Now, graduation rates are up and skills are down.  We need an urgent fix. In principle, vouchers,  privatizing schools, charters and State takeover can't hurt and are fairly easy to implement.

Starik
Starik

@MaryElizabethSings @Starik @AvgGeorgian We don't send kids to school to achieve a higher level of consciousness. We send them to ashram, church, temple, mosque or coven for that.  The kids need to learn language skills that will get them a good job. 


John Lewis is a good congressman, but would you hire him in a call center or other customer service job? You might. I wouldn't. Most employers wouldn't either.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Starik 

There is more involved in achieving a higher education than simply learning job skills, though they are part of it.  Ask Thomas Jefferson, a man of higher consciousness who achieved that consciousness through a combination of pursuing an outstanding higher education as well as a unique personal spiritual inquiry and journey.


John Lewis' name will live in history.  There are hundreds, even thousands, of people who have occupied call center public service jobs whose names for posterity will die when they do, except for their own family members.

"Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”  Albert Einstein

Starik
Starik

@MaryElizabethSings @Starik There's a place for the spititual - but not in public schools. Understand, I'm not criticizing the congressman for anything but his apparent inability to speak standard English, and therefore is not qualified to teach English to children.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@Alphare Actually, if you live somewhere besides a homeless shelter, monastery, cemetery, your car, or cardboard box, you pay for property taxes either directly or through your rent.  The landowners are taxed whatever the correct rate is, and add it to the cost of the housing.  So if the apartment complex is a nice one, you pay your percentage of its tax, and if it is a lousy one, you pay your percentage of its tax.


I am willing to bet that most folks who pay very high property taxes live in school zones that are good.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Starik @AvgGeorgian


I would be glad to get my voucher return of my education taxes as I have no children to educate and it would be a windfall.


Most people with kids would not be able to pay for a private school with the small amount they would get in return for their taxes paid.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Starik 

I disagree.  Should not "Les Miserables" be taught in public schools, nor "A Christmas Carol," nor "The Brothers Karamazov"?  All of these great works of literature, and many more, have spiritual elements, within.  We cannot divide humanity from its inherent spirituality, into neat little categories of acceptable and not acceptable to be taught in public schools because of "spiritual" elements within. To try to do so is pure folly. If we were somehow able to manage that, we would find ourselves making humans into automatons or robots via public education.
(There is even a spiritual element within the Declaration of Independence.)

Starik
Starik

@AvgGeorgian @Starik We educate kids because it's in everybody's interest to do so. We therefore have to pay taxes. 

Starik
Starik

@MaryElizabethSings @Starik I recall being forced to pray to a God I didn't believe in every day at school.  Spirituality can be discussed in a secular way when it comes up in school. 

Starik
Starik

@Wascatlady @Alphare The property taxes are high because properties are worth more in districts with good schools. Chicken/egg.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Starik 

Whenever "spirituality" is forced, Starik, you can be sure fear is behind it.  You should never have been forced to profess in a public school that to which you did not believe. As is written in the New Testament, somewhere: "Perfect love casts out fear." 

ATeacherLikeMe
ATeacherLikeMe

@Starik @MaryElizabethSings You do know he isn't the only Georgia politician to have trouble speaking right?  Black, white, or other, I have heard more than a couple who slip into vernacular when speaking.

ATeacherLikeMe
ATeacherLikeMe

@Starik @ATeacherLikeMe @MaryElizabethSings Let's go down the road with that though.  If we want to convince students that speaking correctly at all times is important for their future career choices, and politicians are held as examples of future careers, then shouldn't we expect them to be well-spoken at all times as well?

Aubieman
Aubieman

My ex use to drive her high school age son across the state line from Chattanooga Tennessee and drop him of at the school bus stop in Ga so he could attend Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe HS. She also lied about her income so he could receive reduced cost meals, while continuing to have him enrolled in Peach Care (She had been a Ga resident). The officials in Georgia I contacted regarding these issues did NOTHING. Apparently in some areas, there's little concern for our tax dollars.

Starik
Starik

@Aubieman Rural Georgia people take care of each other.  If somebody in public housing succeeds and makes six figures they're allow to stay in public housing if they want to.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

Why do some parents of school aged children think they are some special elite creatures who own everyone's educational taxes and should be the ONLY ones to decide where those taxes are spent?


I have no kids to educate but I want my taxes to stay with my local public school because I believe that helps my community.


If parents of school aged children get a voucher, I want a voucher also. It's MY money just like it is every taxpayer's money. 


Voucher demanding parents parents - if you chose to have children before you could afford the type of education you want for them, that is your fault. You want your child to go to a particular school? Get two extra jobs, move in with another family, give up every penny of spending on things you want but don't need, get a teaching certificate and try to get a job in that school - but please stop thinking that my taxes belong to you.


Starik
Starik

@AvgGeorgian I didn't like my taxes supporting the worthless, destructive wars started by the W. Bush administration. I still paid. I really didn't like my neighborhood schools, in a mostly white area, turning 10% white because DeKalb chose to fill it up with black kids who don't live there. I did have kids. I moved. Not everybody can.

SaveTucker
SaveTucker

@AvgGeorgian Vouchers would help those of us who are paying our taxes, just the same as you, but find the school system to be horrendous on multiple levels.  We have to pay our taxes AND find the money for private school on top of that.  A voucher allowing a public school student to take the money intended for his/her education and have it spent outside the public system would create a bigger desire on the part of the school system to make sure every child is accounted for because the only way to get through to them is via money.   They don't care about my child because I have to pay my taxes either way.  But, if I took my child out and that meant the money allocated would be leaving, too, they might start paying attention.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@SaveTucker 


You still seem to think you have a right to other people's tax money. I would be all for a voucher of education taxes that came back to the payer - that would include taxpayers with no children.

Starik
Starik

@MaryElizabethSings @AvgGeorgian @SaveTucker I don't object to vouchers, but a better solution would be to allow Tucker, the City of Tucker, to form its own school district limited to people who live in Tucker. Tucker has a population of 55,000 with a nice, integrated mix of all sort of people. Decatur, with 19,000 people has its own good school system. Why not other cities?  The way the DeKalb system administers its schools leads to racial segregation.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@AvgGeorgian @SaveTucker 

 And, also, include giving a voucher for refund to seniors and others whose children have long ago graduated from high school, yet they would still be mandated to subsidize the education of the children of Georgia's citizens who look after #1, primarily, not the common good.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

One cannot run away from the percentages of diversity changing within only a few years time.  Witness North Fulton, whom some still want to break off from greater Fulton to form the more lily white "Milton County."  What irony because areas of North Fulton are now quite diversified in racial composition, of which many are unaware. Citizens cannot keep redesigning school system population every 5 years in order to flee "too much" diversity. Justice will prevail.

@Starik 

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@SaveTucker @AvgGeorgian A voucher for you to take WHAT YOU HAVE PAID in might be okay, IF you agree not to reenroll your child in your local school if for any reason your change did not work out.


For me, that means I would have about $350 a year for my  children's education.  I'd have a hard time getting any school to accept that.


However, I am sure in other areas you might get $10,000 to educate your child(ren). If you have a house worth that much, it is likely your regular public school is pretty good already.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Starik 


I don't hear stories of children who were motivated, within average IQ range, listened in class, studied hard, completed homework, and took advantage of after school tutoring, but were unable to get a good education.

SaveTucker
SaveTucker

@Wascatlady @SaveTucker @AvgGeorgian I don't want a voucher paid to me.  I want my child to get the education that she should.  She speaks English, has no learning disabilities, doesn't get a free or reduced lunch and she's a girl.  We live in the neighborhood.  We are exactly the kind of people that, in many schools, are being pushed out.   We are educated and have high expectations.  We are willing to volunteer, donate additional time and resources.  That doesn't matter.  The state allots a certain amount per child per school year.  The money goes to "the system" regardless of whether or not  my  child receives an education and whether or not kids actually graduate.  Everyone should be mad about that because you are being lied to every time  you hear about budget 7problems, or lack of resources at your school.  There is a lot of money being spent and it doesn't get spent in the same places where it is collected, or even in  your own county.   How is that a "property" investment?   Right  now  my child, and many others, is not receiving the education that you and I thought we were paying our taxes for her to receive.  I have already paid more in property tax alone than my one child would ever be able to gain in return by way of services.  I'm okay with that because I understand how taxes are supposed to work, but I at least thought that we would have a decent school to send her to.  I never thought we would be so limited in a system that brags about being a "choice" and "charter" friendly system.  And, since my child is in a private school now and only spent one year in public school, I'm in the same boat as everyone else here who thinks they are being ripped off.   Actually, I'm worse off because I am having to pay a private school on top of  my taxes because no one really knows if the schools are "pretty good," as was said above.  And the solution to any individual problems one might experience seems to be a transfer to somewhere else.  Problems are swept  under rugs, not solved in open meetings.  I don't think vouchers would solve everything and private schools would still be expensive even if you allowed for vouchers equal to the allotted dollars  per child option.  But, as soon as money starts to leave the public system, someone will have to figure out how to stop that from happening.  Right now there is no incentive for anyone at the top to fix anything.  They get the money regardless of whether or not they are delivering anything of value in return.  That's a broken system that might be fixed "in theory" by people reading education blogs, but it isn't being fixed in reality.  That is why I said we live in reality.    "The public" may or may note understand how things should or could work, but that doesn't make any difference because "the system" operates on an entirely unwritten set of rules that no one fully understands.

Starik
Starik

@AvgGeorgian @SaveTucker Try the lottery. SaveTucker, if you're really in Tucker, work on your legislators. Let Tucker taxes educate Tucker kids, form a Tucker City School District.

Starik
Starik

@AvgGeorgian @Starik In DeKalb and Atlanta I can assure there are a lot of them. Graduation from the bad high schools doesn't prepare kids adequately for college. The classes are easy. A grades don't require much effort at all. 

Starik
Starik

@AvgGeorgian @SaveTucker @Wascatlady

You're not an AvgGeorgian. You're too smart. Throwing good money into DeKalb will make things worse by paying many bad teachers and administrators even more.   

getthecell
getthecell

@AvgGeorgian @SaveTucker To clarify, I did not say that I would be receiving any money whatsoever.  I am talking about vouchers.  What are you talking about?  Vouchers are not payable to individuals.  The way I understand it, and I have read quite a bit on this subject,  vouchers are a way of allowing the money to follow the child to whatever school he/she actually attends, whether it is public, private, charter or otherwise.  The institution incurring the debt  would be the same one receiving the funds.  Common sense.  The way we have it set up right now is that my local school has no duty or obligation to provide an education to my child or her peers who live in the attendance zone.  They are more motivated to attract lower income students from outside our area because they receive a higher dollar per student amount from the "Title I" program.  Unless we were to lie and fill out a free/reduced lunch form, we were not valuable to our own neighborhood school.  Hence, my later comment about the fact that we had 10 students deemed only as "out of district" in our school, more than the local magnet program attracted.  I don't know how that happens or why the registration process is not more thorough.  I don't think the schools even follow up with you if you remove your child, either, to make sure you actually did enroll elsewhere or started  home schooling.  It seems there is little oversight on how many children we are actually paying to educate (in DeKalb) and where they are coming from, or where they go when they leave.  I believe Title I funds are no longer in play, so maybe things will  improve.    

getthecell
getthecell

@AvgGeorgian Is it still "YOUR" local school when fewer and fewer of the children who live in the homes around you actually go there?  The money  you pay in, btw, does not go to your school specifically.  It goes to the general fund  which is then  re-allocated on a per student cost.  Some students are considered more expensive to teach, so they are worth more.  When federal dollars were allocated to provided extra support for the schools with low performing students from poor communities,  the "demand" for those students went up.  And it was the worst behaved, worst performing ones that were given the top choices of where they wanted to go ... not the ones who were trying their best to do well and deserved a chance at a better education the way most people imagine that it would work.  

getthecell
getthecell

@AvgGeorgian @SaveTucker I don't want anyone else's money.  I would be happy if my own money could be spent on my own child rather than to a system that doesn't care about her. But, regardless, it isn't money for anyone. Vouchers would be allocated to the school where the child attends, removing the money from the public system and sending it to the private school that is filling the void by educating the children who are not deemed to be desirable by the public system currently.  If the public schools start losing money in that manner, they will become motivated to serve all the children or else they will close.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Starik 


Standardized testing including state tests, ASVAB, SAT, PSAT, ACT, Compass, EOCT, all provide indicators of how well a motivated, hardworking student should be doing.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@getthecell


Are you saying your children through hard work, study, tutoring, completing all work on time are not able to get an adequate education at your local school? if you want a private school of One, your child can do free public school online with certified teachers.

SaveTucker
SaveTucker

@Starik @CJae_EAV @MaryElizabethSings @AvgGeorgian @SaveTucker yes, but it was likely intended to be an investment that you would be able to see a return on at some point in your lifetime.  Perhaps property taxes are no longer the right way to go about funding schools, esp. if they are not benefitting property values or the neighborhood children any longer in many areas.  Some could argue that they are actually bringing in an undesirable element into the neighborhood and then allowing kids the opportunity to skip school and break into homes during the day.  Who wants to pay taxes to support a system that allows that to happen?

SaveTucker
SaveTucker

@Starik @AvgGeorgian @SaveTucker You are talking about the school lottery so I can send my child to a magnet or other type of school in the same system, run by the same top administrators who already know we have an ax to grind with them and risk my child being retaliated against as a result?  Not a risk I am willing to take.  I love my child too much to put her through something like that.

SaveTucker
SaveTucker

@AvgGeorgian @Starik Ask Ga. Perimeter College how much they spend on remedial courses just to bring Ga. students up to par with where they should be when entering a community college so that they won't flunk out in their first year.  I have heard their top administrators speak about this at several legislative hearings, so I do believe it can happen.

SaveTucker
SaveTucker

@AvgGeorgian @SaveTucker    Education vouchers do not give money directly to parents, so your comment is out of line.  I do believe that most taxpayers expect or even assume that the  portion of their taxes that they are paying for education is actually being spent educating the children who live in the district.  That's sort of what this article was about in the first place.  A lot of people who are out of district are finding ways to come into the district to utilize the services your taxes have paid for and there is very little being done to monitor or control who is being let in and under what circumstances.   I'm sure there are plenty of ways to fix it if there was a real concern here.  But, the truth of the matter is that the school system has no motivation to fix something that is working fine for them.  They get the money either way.  A voucher system allows some students to access a private school education and still have the public tax dollars funding them.  Not all families would choose to take advantage of the option, but if enough of them did, the school system would have to address the underlying problems in order to stop the loss of funds to the private sector.

SaveTucker
SaveTucker

@Starik @getthecell @AvgGeorgian @SaveTucker  That would be great for my situation, but not so great for the taxpayers in Tucker who do not have the income levels to support such an expense.  Higher property taxes, already a possibility with the recent incorporation, would likely push many people into foreclosure.  I am not willing to fight for something that I believe will bring harm to others, even if it would  help me.   I would rather hold out for a real solution that can work for everyone, not just one group of citizens over another.

SaveTucker
SaveTucker

@AvgGeorgian @getthecell What do you consider adequate?  The success rate, if measured purely by graduation rates alone, is far below what most would consider adequate.