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:
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