Muscogee plans to prosecute parents for illegal enrollment

It is not only Ohio going after parents illegally enrolling their kids in better school systems. Muscogee schools are also getting ready to go to court over the same issue.

The budget crisis and school overcrowding are feeding the increased fervor with which districts are chasing down illegally enrolled students. In the blog on the Ohio case, many posters defended the mother by noting that her father lived in the district where she illegally enrolled her children. They felt that since her father lived there and paid taxes there, Kelley Williams-Bolar deserved a break and her two kids should be able to go to the schools.

But how far do we extend that thinking? Should Bartow County kids be able to attend Cobb schools if their aunts and uncles live there?  Should people who operate businesses in a town but live elsewhere be allowed to enroll their children in the schools?

The argument for Williams-Bolar is that her father lives in the district but doesn’t now have children in the schools so her kids should count as his share. But if every owner of a house or condo without kids had that ability  — to turn their “spot” over to a relative’s child outside of the district — we would have far higher school tax bills and more crowded schools. If we allowed grandparents who have sent their own children through the local schools to then send their out-of-district grandchildren, we would have even more overcrowding.

Please keep in mind that the median annual property tax payment in Georgia in 2009 was $1,346, which is below the national average of $1,917. The average cost for educating a child in a Georgia public school is $8,779 per year. That school bill is paid in part by many homeowners who have no kids in the schools, the same way roads are paid for by people without cars and county tennis centers are paid for by non-tennis players.

Here is what is happening in Georgia:

From WRBL-3 in Columbus:

On the heels of an Ohio mom getting jailed for 10 days for using her father’s address to get her kids into a better school, the Muscogee County School District is also preparing to prosecute two cases of much the same. Spokesperson Valerie Fuller says there are several more cases under consideration since the district required parents to submit residency affidavits this school year.

Months since those records have been collected, the district is now sniffing out the cheaters—those out-of-county people who have been using someone else’s address to send their children to Muscogee County schools. Falsification could also include in-county taxpaying parents who have tried to send their children to a school that is not in their zone.

“As our resources diminish, they become more and more precious to us,” said Cathy Williams, chairwoman of the school board. “I don’t think it’s good parenting skills to raise your children in an environment where they’re learning how to usurp the system or cheat or lie or steal.”

Williams points out Muscogee County has choice programs where in-county residents can meet certain proficiencies to enroll a child in a particular school. Out-of-county people can attend Muscogee County schools; they just have to pay tuition.

“I think our district is one of the best, and I understand people clamoring to get in, but there’s a right way to do it and there’s a wrong way to do it,” Williams said. “What I want to stop is the wrong way.”

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

55 comments Add your comment


January 28th, 2011
9:42 am

Parents who lie on school forms must understand they are commiting a crime. And the reality that a school’s resources are becoming more and more limited is harsh, but schools must act to protect the resources. The local community pays the taxes and expects the resources to be used for their students. Remember, the state is paying less and less.


January 28th, 2011
9:53 am

I’m beginning to think that it sounds like a decent plan. I’m at a GCPS school that gets a number of students from DeKalb (if all of the DeKalb plates waiting in our car rider line can be trusted). Of course, those are the kids who get in trouble, whose parents don’t ever come to conferences, and who need all of the extra support. Of course, as soon as we try to call them on it, they get someone to fill out a residency affidavit, and no one questions it. But, do we want to waste valuable time and resources to prove that they really don’t live here? Is the money that schools spend tracking down these people going to be less than the money they are spending to educate them? I guess that’s the bigger question.


January 28th, 2011
10:11 am

APS requires current utility bills, rent receipts or property tax receipts in the parents’ names in order to enroll students. There are a couple of extended stay hotels in the district that suddenly achieve 100% occupancy for a month or so around enrollment time, and students from those addresses are often found to actually live out of the district. We have also had two cases, to my knowledge, of out of district parents offering money to in district families to sign guardianship papers so that students could attend.

Since the average APS per-pupil spending is over $17,000 each year, it is indeed a savings to identify non-funded students and return them to their district of origin. It is hardest on the child, who has made friends and is settled by the time the identification is made.

What's best for kids?

January 28th, 2011
10:22 am

I am a proponent of school choice, but I understand the issue. Let’s say that 100 kids go from Clayton to APS. If we are spending 17k on each student who is from another county, we have just spent over a million and a half dollars on other counties’ kids.
Now QBE kinda messes up the “MY local property tax is being spent on someone else” because under QBE, it all gets reallocated anyway. So what’s the solution?
Start by offewring public school choice in district and go from there.

What's best for kids?

January 28th, 2011
10:29 am



January 28th, 2011
10:41 am

What’s best: Be vewwy vewwy quiet.

And who’s to say that “daddy” even pays school tax any more. Many elderly in Georgia do not–don’t know about OH.


January 28th, 2011
10:42 am

Ms. Downey, does Athens/Clarke county still offer modified choice?


January 28th, 2011
10:53 am

This frou-hah will all disappear when and if true school choice becomes state law. True choice will allow any child to attend anywhere his or her parents desire, be it a public or private school, with the money following the child. Will choice devastate “public education?” Absolutely not. Will it devastate the status quo. I certainly hope so.

What will be lost: Crappy schools will close OR CHANGE because otherwise no one will want to go there. Crappy teachers will leave the profession – or be ejected from it – because it will be OBVIOUS that no one wants to be in their classes. Crappy students will be few, because everyone will have the FREEDOM and the incentive to do better.

What will be gained: The best teachers will be celebrated, will become “hot commodities,” will be courted and recruited and held up as examples, will teach other teachers how to be incredible teachers, and will aggregate at the best schools – AND the best schools WILL REPLICATE. There’s not a finite number of great schools, great school leaders, and great teachers, There’s just not enough great ones yet. Choice WILL drive quality, because it will create a MARKET for quality.

Our current schools are merely a market for average to substandard performance.

And which voices are resisting this change that is guaranteed to work (free markets ALWAYS work): Those who have everything to lose by losing their power and prestige, and who put their power and prestige above the needs of all students. Or, possibly, those who are deluded into believing sincerely that the system is working.

Bruce Kendall

January 28th, 2011
11:06 am

@ CharterStarter — Charters if we are not careful, encourage a retreat back to segregational education systems. This is part of the challenge that many of those who want to lead us, or those so desperate for change, cannot or do not see.

As citizens it is our responsibility to be guardians of the future, to surrender to what only seems as the best course of action, instead of being its steward and guiding it is failure. Something we already have to much of.

The question is who is going to be the voice of reason in these tumultuous times and speak for the good of all the people?


January 28th, 2011
11:16 am

It’s sad because most criticize the parents who don’t care about their childrens education; then we lock up those who would do anything for a better education for their kids.

You just can’t win in this world.


January 28th, 2011
11:24 am

School Choice is one of the dumbest ideas of all time. If you want better schools then MOVE. It is a free country and you can move if you want. These parents should be thrown in jail as stealing is stealing.


January 28th, 2011
11:26 am

If you idiots want to get rid of neighborhood schools then I hope you realize that the school buses are going away and Metro Atlanta traffic will double. Do you really think that our road system could use more cars on it? I doubt it.

Seen It

January 28th, 2011
11:33 am

I think district jumping is more prevalent than we might think. I live 5 miles from the county line where the neighboring county has a much poorer performing school district and I see that county’s car tags in the carline every single day. I can’t really rember what we had to provide for proof of county residency but I wonder if it was/is enough.

BTW, I could have spent 25-50% less on a house if I had chosen to live in the neighboring county where you can buy a fantastic house for super cheap AND pay lower property taxes. Instead I chose to spend more on a not-so-great house in a better district to give my children a better chance of a great education.

The Truth

January 28th, 2011
11:34 am

No, what’s REALLY sad is that some people still think this woman did nothing wrong. The school system was billing her, and she just ignored it. It’s not easy to understand the value of a dollar when the government already pays for your food and housing. That’s all good, though, because it “boosts the economy”. TRANSLATION: Hairdressers, manufacturers of gaudy clothing and malt liquor, and the recording industry would go out of business if some people had to actually pay for food and housing themselves. Oh wait…they’ve done figured out how to STEAL music without getting caught…sorry, recording industry.

The bright spot here is that she’s now a felon, so there will always be someone available at McDonald’s to take an order that SOMEWHAT speaks English.

What's best for kids?

January 28th, 2011
11:43 am

Courtney, we could all do away with the name calling.
School choice would create a competition where good schools get better and bad schools either change or close.
I also don’t think we need school buses or school lunches now, but that’s just me.


January 28th, 2011
11:45 am

Bruce, if by segregational you mean separate but equal. dream on. Charter school law, the state DOE, and the State BOE are all over that. Think again.

mmm, mmm, mmm Barack the LIAR Obama

January 28th, 2011
11:47 am

About time. If you want a different school for your kids – MOVE!!!!!!
It’s NOT the taxpayers role to pay for your kids that don’t live in that district.


January 28th, 2011
11:48 am

I’m not defending people who lie on affidavits, either. I’m just saying I understand where they’re coming from. Their opinions are real, and are based on reality, and that reality should be considered in matters of law and policy. If a school district had the courage to offer a public referendum on a question about school choice and vouchers, THAT would precisely define reality in a way that criminal prosecutions cannot. Any takers?


January 28th, 2011
12:00 pm

Public county schools are for the county residents. If you don’t like your school selection, go to either a private school or MOVE to a better county/district. This is not a new concept, as people have been making these choices for years.

Chris Murphy, Atlanta, GA

January 28th, 2011
12:01 pm

How is holding these parents “accountable” different than the issues with illegals? And don’t tell me illegals pay taxes: most work cash-paying jobs, so they get dinged on sales tax, nothing more.
Sure, these parents should be prosecuted: it’s not like the systems & DA’s are laying in wait, they’ve been warned repeatedly and just disregard any scrutiny.


January 28th, 2011
12:05 pm

People who do this are wrong because they are breaking the law and there are other legal means to try to accomplish the same ends. Along that line, what is wrong about “money following the student”, it just makes sense to me and that could be my personal bias showing. Think about it, your money follows you wherever you go. Whether you are going to Wal-Mart, Phipps Plaza or a convenience store, your money follows you. I realize that it is more complicated because it is the State’s money provided by taxes, but it just seems like it makes logical sense.

Fix your community

January 28th, 2011
12:15 pm

The real solution is to fix your own community and your own school as opposed to leeching off another school system….


January 28th, 2011
12:17 pm

“That school bill is paid in part by many homeowners who have no kids in the schools, the same way roads are paid for by people without cars and county tennis centers are paid for by non-tennis players.” Ah yes, time to drag out the old socialist argument of “shared benefit.” Let’s look at it. First, roads are paid for by every vehicle that passes over them in the form of registration, licesnses, and most importantly gasoline taxes. Using the utilitarian argument, there is absolutely nobody who does not benefit from roads nor anyone who does not pay directly through one of these mechanisms. Even the person who has everything delivered to their home is paying through the cost of the goods for the taxes paid on the fuel used to get it there. WE ALL BENEFIT AND PAY FOR ROADS.

As for county tennis courts, the fact that we are all forced to pay is just as appalling as everyone being forced to pay for the education of other people’s kids. Private tennis facilities exist and people should use them. It should not be the county’s job to steal from others to put of tennis courts for a few. Using such a horrible example of government abuse of power does nothing to support your argument.

Now let’s look at how your pathetic argument stacks up against your comparison. If the property tax bill is $1,346 versus $8,779 for the cost per child, we have a difference of $7,433 for the first child and another $8,779 for every child thereafter. So a familily with two children gets $16,212 worth of FREE services courtesy of EVERYONE else every year for 12 years (at least). That’s $194,544. $299,892 for 3 kids, $405,240 for 4 kids and so on.

So we have seen that nobody doesn’t benefit from the roads and virtually nobody pays directly in the form of fuel taxes or imbedded cost of goods), nobody should be paying for tennis courts and other luxuries, and even if they did, I would hardly think that any tennis benefit would ever come close to adding up to the HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of Dollars that parents receive from everyone else for their kids education. Even the most expensive private tennis clubs don’t charge that much.

Maureen, the government system is a failure. It is based on the immoral principle of theft. Is is based on the immoral economic system of socialism. Parents and students directly benefit from education but are unwilling to assume the true costs but would rather use the force of government to steal the money from the rest of society and justify their actions by saying that “everyone benefits” when this is clearly not the case. Where there no government run schools there would be a plethora of private alternatives, charity alternatives, a greater reliance on homeschooling and other options, and a direct responsiblity on the part of parents for their children’s education and the true costs of bringing a child into this world. That kind of system would truly benefit all of society.


January 28th, 2011
12:21 pm

And to be clear, despite the fact that fuel taxes and such are a far better and more direct mechanism of properly paying for road construction, maintenance, and the like does not change the fact that privately owned and operated roads would be safer, better maintained, and more functional than those currently operated by the government monopoly.

Maureen Downey

January 28th, 2011
12:23 pm

@Realist, Please cite the nations without strong public education systems that are leading the world. If you look at the countries in collapse, they have terrible schools or no schools to speak of. If you at the leaders, they have great schools and revere their teacher as professionals on whose talents rest the future of the nation.
I am stunned that anyone could think we can have a strong nation without a strong commitment to the public education our citizens by all of us.
It is no coincidence that the US first took a global lead at the point where it began to offer comprehensive education for all. And the by way, where is no government, there is chaos if you look around the globe.
The countries that people always cite as well run, efficient, safe and prosperous all have strong public education.


January 28th, 2011
12:27 pm

If we required all Georgia schools to meet the same criteria we wouldn’t need to have this conversation. I don’t care if a child attends school in Chatham, Clayton, Dekalb, Douglas, Fulton, Paulding County or any of the other GA counties children should all get a quality education. If this is done parents won’t have to resort to risking jail to assure that their children receieve the best education available. I think it is rather sad that people have to resort to this measure to educate their children. If a school district is failing to educate students then students should be allowed to place their kids in another school district.

I agree with Rob and instead of the education money going to the school districts it should follow the child. If this was the case I guarantee you that every school district would drastically improve the way they educate our children.

Gen. Jack D. Ripper

January 28th, 2011
12:27 pm

Illegal enrollment laws should be strictly enforced. Once you slack off, or start looking the other way in sympathy situations, then you sanction the behavior and the avalanche begins. Adults are like children in that they’ll do whatever they think they can get away with. As someone already noted above, if you don’t like the schools in your county then relocate somewhere else.


January 28th, 2011
12:29 pm

Also, just to clarify, anyone paying rent in a community is “paying taxes”. Whether they are living 10 illegals to an 2-bedroom apartment, they are still not paying the full cost of educating their children any more than the american citizen family is paying for their kids while living in a 3 bedroom house. And as for income and other taxes, whether an illegal gets paid in cash or a poor family gets paid through an IRS approved mechanism the end result is likely the same. In fact, the poor family that doesn’t get paid in case likely pays not only no income tax to help offset the additional costs of their kid’s education but even gets additional “welfare” money in the form of the Earned Income Credit. At least the illegal who doesn’t file isn’t taking that money from the rest of us too. If you want accountability for everyone then you need to change the funding mechanism. Maybe if school, healthcare, education and the like weren’t free, folks would think twice about coming to this country illegally. And maybe if education and the like weren’t so heavily subsidized, teenage kids wouldn’t be having children, others wouldn’t be having 10 kids, etc. You get what you incentivize and I can’t think of a better incentive than $200K plus worth of free education for having children.


January 28th, 2011
12:31 pm

Shoot, the Principals get a bonus based on the number of students in their building. They do not care where the kid comes from. Just give them some documentation of some sort to get your kid into the school. That way, they have more kids, bigger bonus, more slots to hire more teachers. It is a racket. Corruption at its worst and it is financed by the local community. You would think that the Gwinnett Board of Education would look into this situation. No way, then it is meddling with the schools.

Oh yes, I'm the great pretender......

January 28th, 2011
12:38 pm

@Maureen Downey

January 26th, 2011
11:09 pm
@Time for School Choice. As to whether I would turn somebody in, I probably would not, figuring the parents just wanted the best for their kids.

After reading all of the comments from both of your Blogs, do you still stand by your comment above?

Ted Striker

January 28th, 2011
1:10 pm

Prosecute them. Period.

I have paid tens of thousands of dollars in school taxes. And I don’t even have children. And I’m absolutely perfectly fine with paying school taxes for the families who live in my county/district. After all, it’s for the common good for school children who live here to be educated.

That said, I don’t pay school taxes so someone from another district or county can falsify residency and send their kids here and me foot the bill. Someone who does this is no different from someone who shoplifts or embezzles from their employer. Saying you’re doing it for your child is a cop-out.


January 28th, 2011
1:18 pm

Not sure how much can be accurately determined by the county stickers on license plates in the drop-off line. To the best of my knowledge there’s a much longer tradition of registering your car in a different county (usually one with lower tax rates than your own) than there is of crossing county lines for school purposes.


January 28th, 2011
1:24 pm

Are we going to prosecute illegal aliens too? I agree that students need to go to the school to which they are assigned. That’s the law and there are ways that they can change schools legally. BUT, EVERY illegal alien is breaking the law. Shouldn’t we be making them go to the schools to which they are assigned? I hear Guatemala has a great school system.

Inetta the Moodsetta

January 28th, 2011
1:39 pm


January 28th, 2011
1:52 pm

“then we lock up those who would do anything for a better education for their kids.”

Oh I agree. Parents doing anything…to hell with the law just do any ole thing cuz its all for THE CHILDREN. Its takes a village and all that crap-ola.

Perhaps instead of “doing anything” they might try doing The Right Thing…No?


January 28th, 2011
1:53 pm

PS…Prosecute to the fullest extent!!

Oh yes, I'm the great pretender......

January 28th, 2011
2:01 pm

Dr. NO – You are not a pretender, and that’s good :)

Teacher, Too

January 28th, 2011
3:08 pm

“It takes a village” until you try to correct someone else’s child. Then, you’re an interfering busybody.

There is rampant abuse of just about every government entitlement. Maybe some of the social entitlements (not the beneficiaries of social security and medicare– the senior citizens) should have some kind of stipulation attached to the entitlement.

For example, people who have been on generational welfare. Perhaps they need to earn that welfare check by volunteering at schools, cleaning up parks– repaying the welfare check by working so many hours. Perhaps that may provide some kind of incentive. Think about how much money is being doled out for some people who have no intention of finding work. Maybe teenageers wouldn’t be so ready to have a baby if they knew there wouldn’t be a welfare check waiting for them.

Free lunch– there is much deception with free and reduced lunch. I hear students openly admit that their parents lie to get free and reduced lunch. Only about 3% of applications get checked. There’s a 97% chance you won’t get caught? Why not lie on the form?

School taxes– it’s local property taxes that fund the bulk of school districts. If you don’t like your attendance zone, why not take the responsibility to do something about it? Why not round up other parents to get more involved in the school? Kids need positive role models. Why not mentor a child? Read to him/her? Turn off the tv and the video games!

Certainly, if parents don’t like the school their children are attending, what are they doing at home to enhance their child’s education? Are they going to the library? Reading books? Going to museums? Or are they sitting at home watching the vast wasteland of tv and playing video games until all hours of the night? Do they check to see if homework is being done? Do they remain in contact with their child’s teachers?

Schools are a reflection of a community’s values. If education is a community value, you generally see successful schools.

At my school, you can see the lack of self-discipline of the students, the disrespectful and unruly behavior of the students, and the general lack of care and concern towards their education. Where does this come from? Not the teachers or administrators. I have had parents tell me that their children have insomnia in 6th, 7th, and 8th grades. Really? These same children are up all night long, on Facebook, playing video games, watching tv, and roaming the neighborhood. Insomnia? No, indifference on the part of the parents.


January 28th, 2011
3:09 pm

I taught with a woman who was a visiting teacher from Scotland. Where she grew up, students went to any school they wanted, but when the school was full, those trying to enroll had to find somewhere else to go. That seemed reasonable to me.

If school choice were ever a reality, there would need to be safeguards against overcrowding. Having a similar system would ensure that we not have empty schools or overcrowded ones. What we would have is schools where parents cared enough to enroll their children early and schools where parents didn’t care at all. I realize that there are people without cars, etc. But if they have no transportation, their kid can’t go there anyway since, as a previous poster stated earlier, there could be no bus service in a world of choice, either.

mixed up schedules prevent midyear changes.

January 28th, 2011
3:13 pm

Alot of you say sell your house to Change district. Well that is exactly what I have been trying to do, to get out of the Cobb County Schools that I am not pleased with. With the screwed up dysfunctional Cobb County Board of Education. But, with todays economy, you can not just sell your house over night. You can put it on the market, price it right, and hope that you will be able to change schools in August but that doesn’t always work out. So what happens when your house finally sells 8 or 9 months latter, in mid year. You have high acheiving high school students that are involved in Varsity Sports.

Here is the senerio Cobb County is on a 4 Class you do a full year in one semester Schedule. The North Fulton High Acheiving High Schools that I moved to are on the standard 7 classes that last a full year. There is no way to transfer in from Cobb County in the AP, Honors and IB class level at this point of year. My Child all ready completed a Full year of Math, Foriegn Language, Chemestry, Business Law, but, just started Lit, History, etc.. So their is no choice but finish the year in Cobb. By the way I already paid Cobb County the Full year of Taxes which were about 4 times the average cited here. I also own a portion of my ex’s house which is still in the district.

I have also told my kids to keep there mouths shut. But I don’t think Cobb wants to loose their high test scores either.


January 28th, 2011
4:28 pm

Mixed Up Schedules…amazing your kids are so brilliant since you don’t seem to have a grasp of basic spelling and grammar. Must be their Cobb County education.

David Sims

January 28th, 2011
5:11 pm

Perhaps it is a hypocrisy and a quibble to decide whether the coercive expropriation of other people’s earnings is permissible or impermissible, depending on where the thief lives. When you let some benefit out of the pockets of unwilling others, you steal. Governments think they are being righteous when they say “Thieves living in the county may steal from innocent county residents, but thieves living elsewhere may not steal from them—but must steal from the innocent residents of their own counties, instead.”


January 28th, 2011
5:16 pm

Everyone is assuming that parents are enrolling their children in out of district schools in order to receive a better education. This is not true. Maybe some are doing this, but many are doing it for convenience or social reasons. As a Board member, we hear excuses of every kind. My system, and every school within, is top ranked, but the majority of reasons have to do with convenience for the parents or social interactions for the students.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Presliey Vondee, Christine Nora, katie, Krista Brown, Maureen Downey and others. Maureen Downey said: Muscogee plans to prosecute parents for illegal enrollment [...]


January 28th, 2011
5:55 pm

@Seen It, as you note, even those without children in school benefit if the district has great schools, because their property is seen as more desirable and commands higher prices if they decide to sell.


January 28th, 2011
6:09 pm

@CharterStarter: “free markets ALWAYS work”

So giving teachers lower pay, less autonomy, more paperwork, and less support on discipline matters is the way to get the “best and brightest” to become teachers, right?

mixed up schedules prevent midyear changes.

January 28th, 2011
6:21 pm

@ wow, this is a blog, not a grammar paper !

Enough Already!

January 28th, 2011
6:35 pm

These parents should talk to Rahm Emanuel or run for Mayor of Chicago! Residency rules don’t apply to all and certainly are not fair or just.Then again….lying is lying and fraud is fraud!


January 28th, 2011
8:08 pm

I’m still trying to get an answer to my question: If too many people want to go to Fabulous Public School, how does the administration decide who to accept and who to reject? And where do the others go? Or does the school just let in everyone who wants to attend, even if it results in trailers galore and massive overcrowding? And who pays for the trailers & other facilities that will be needed?


January 28th, 2011
9:03 pm

““It takes a village” until you try to correct someone else’s child. Then, you’re an interfering busybody.” Amen, but I do it anyway. If your kids come to my house they will, while here, be reared by me according to my rules. And yet they all keep coming, so it must not be that bad to be told to get good grades, respect yourself and your elders and get the hair out of your eyes.

“Free lunch– * * *There’s a 97% chance you won’t get caught? Why not lie on the form?” For me it is simple, I don’t lie. It is disgusting to me that other people do. Then again, I am the person who tells the cashier that she accidentally failed to charge me for something….and then I pay up.

I am keenly aware that I am setting an example for my child and I darn well intend to do my best. I set a high bar and my son knows that I will accept nothing less. He attends a good school because I work hard to live here, but no matter what the school environment is I expect him to meet my criteria for success.