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Bruce K. MacLaury, Chairman, Emergency Transitional Education Board of Trustees,
Testimony to the Subcommittee on the District of Columbia, Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, United States House of Representatives
March 13, 1998




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Mr. Chairman and members of the Subcommittee:

For any public institution, nothing erodes confidence more than the feeling that numbers have been manipulated. Since assuming responsibility for the DC Public Schools in November, 1996, Gen. Becton and the Emergency Trustees have worked hard to assure integrity in personnel, finance, facilities, and academic operations – not only to serve children better, but also to restore public trust in this school system.

The enrollment question has been around a long time, and it's hard to settle. People want to know the bottom line – but the bottom line is the product of intricate and sometimes arcane processes.

I believe that DCPS has made a serious attempt to improve those processes this year. The numbers you have heard are based on bottom-up, cross-referenced reporting. Unless someone can produce a different number - based on hard data rather than mathematical inference – I am prepared to accept Mr. Wenning's figures.

It is quite true that among the count of 77,1 11 students in District schools, some number do not belong there. We are apparently educating, free of charge, several thousand students who are properly the responsibility of other jurisdictions. At a time when the entire city is undergoing budget austerity, when our plans for academic renewal require an increase of more than $70 million in the budget level requested for FY99, we simply cannot afford unintentional largesse. We have to do a better job of verifying that children in our classes are legally entitled to be there.

In part, this is a matter of better enforcement. That's why the Emergency Board approved last Thursday new regulations that will strengthen considerably the school system's residency verification capability.

Under municipal regulations dating back to 1977, DC Public Schools have been in an embarrassingly weak position regarding tuition enforcement. Parents were supposed to provide a District address and phone number - but the rules said simply that principals "may require" actual evidence of residency.

And some of that "evidence" included such meaningless items as "maintenance of a bank account or local credit account in the District of Columbia" and "membership in a church or other local organization operating in the District of Columbia." Under these rules, a child could live in Anchorage and prove eligible for tuition-free attendance in DC public schools.

Moreover, by spelling out an elaborate and time-consuming appeals process, the old rules virtually invited litigation and delaying tactics.

By the action taken last week, now awaiting approval by the Control Board, the Trustees have given General Becton the tools he needs to resolve this situation. Specifically:

  • Principals shall require submission of at least three documents indicating DC residency in order to determine if students are eligible to enroll.
  • Principals may also demand verification for currently-enrolled students.
  • Residency can only be established by hard evidence such as proof of tax payment, documentation of public assistance, or utility bills showing the parent's name.
  • Requests for reconsideration must be filed within ten days, and will be handled through an expedited review.

(With your permission, I am submitting for the record the Notice of Final Rulemaking as approved and forwarded to the Control Board.)

Mr. Chairman, this is not a simple issue. During the rulemaking process we heard from advocates for the homeless and multicultural communities about the need for fairness and sensitivity in establishing legal eligibility for schooling. We tried to take those comments into account in the final version. We also heard from others that even sterner measures should have been taken. Rest assured that we will monitor implementation to see that these rules are both effective and even-handed.

But action was clearly necessary. We have heard far too many stories about cars with Maryland and Virginia license plates driving up to DC schools. At a time when we've had to begin closing undersubscribed schools, we've also heard of principals who looked the other way so that out-of-District students would boost their enrollment. Frankly, the old Board rules left plenty of room to maneuver.

I believe that we need to go beyond the important issue of enforcement to examine some of the policies that may attract non-residents to DC schools.

On the face of it, there's an anomaly when Emergency Trustees, brought in to transform a school system in crisis, have to worry about non-resident freeloaders! In part, this phenomenon simply reflects the fact that consumers think we have some pretty effective schools in the District. That's certainly good news.

On the other hand, our school system offers what can only be described as inducements for non- residents to sneak their children across the District line. The Mills decree, under which the District operates, demands evaluation and placement of special education students in only 50 days – the shortest such timeline in the country and far shorter than the time allowed in other area school districts. On the 51st day, this court ruling mandates private placement of students who cannot be served within the DC public school system. The average cost of these placements now exceeds $39,000 per student. In my view, this situation makes it entirely possible that some parents in neighboring jurisdictions are using this system to get what their own county and state will not provide.

And unlike our neighbors, the District also offers free, all-day prekindergarten. The educational merits of such a program are worth debating - but many nonresidents probably accept our generosity as free daycare.

At a minimum, we need to target our enforcement efforts on schools and programs that probably account for a large portion of our non-resident enrollment.

The new regulations make clear what is expected across the whole city. Together with the new evaluation systems put in place this year by Mrs. Ackerman, they will make principals clearly accountable for verifying enrollment. While I do not expect to see a sudden surge in out-of-District tuition payments. better residency enforcement may well save millions in teacher salaries and textbook costs.

I look forward to your questions.

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The District of Columbia Emergency Transitional Education Board of Trustees ("Trustees"), pursuant to the authority set forth in Section 31-101 et seq. of the D.C. Code and the February 12, 1998, order of the District of Columbia Financial Responsibility and Management Assistance Authority ("Authority"), hereby gives notice of final rulemaking action taken by the Trustees at their meeting held on March 5, 1998. The purpose of this rulemaking action is to amend portions of Chapter 20 of Title 5 of the D.C. Municipal Regulations regarding proofs of residency required of D.C. Public School students. This rulemaking will go into effect following a seven-day review by the Authority.

Notice of proposed rulemaking on this subject was published on December 12, 1997. Minor modifications were made based on comments received on the proposed rulemaking.

Amend Section 2000.2 as follows:

2000.2 A student under eighteen ( 18) years of age who is otherwise eligible for admission to a D.C. public school shall be admitted, and may continue enrollment, without payment of non-resident tuition only if the student qualifies for free instruction under one of the following categories:

(a) A student who is in the custody or control of a parent or court-appointed guardian (or custodian) who is a resident of the District of Columbia;

b) A student who is a resident of the District of Columbia and who does not have a living parent or guardian;

(c) A student who is a ward of the District of Columbia, even if the student resides outside the District of Columbia;

(d) A student who is living with his or her spouse, when the spouse is eighteen (18) years of age or older and is a resident of the District of Columbia; or

(e) A student who has been granted an exemption from the requirement to pay tuition by the Board of Trustees pursuant to the provisions of D.C. Code 31602(d).

Amend Sections 2002.10 as follows:

2002.10(a) The Principal or other person responsible for admission and enrollment procedures shall require the submission of at least three (3) documents indicating District of Columbia residency as defined in section 2099, in order to determine whether the student is eligible to attend a D.C. public school or program without payment of non-resident tuition, pursuant to the provisions of section 2000.2 and 2000.3.

(b) The principal or other person responsible for admission and enrollment procedures has the discretion to require, upon demand, the parent, court appointed guardian or custodian to provide verification of District of Columbia residency for both current and initially enrolling children/adult students.

(c) The documents that shall be accepted for verification of residency for current D.C. Public School students shall be the same indicators of residency required to be submitted for a child/adult initially seeking admission to a D.C. public school.

(d) The parent, court-appointed guardian or custodian shall have ten (10) school days to provide the indicators of residency requested. If the required information is not provided in the requested time period, which can be extended at the discretion of the Superintendent or the Superintendent's designee, arrangements must be made to enroll as a non-resident student and pay all non-resident tuition, as set forth in Section 2007.

(e) Failure to provide the requested information or pay the required tuition will result in exclusion from D.C. Public Schools, subject to the tuition waiver authority provided in Section 2000.2(e) above.

Amend Section 2002.11 as follows:

2002.11 District of Columbia residency shall be established through the use of satisfactory documentation as follows:

(a) Three (3) or more of the following items shall be required to establish District of Columbia residency:

(1) Proof of payment of D.C. personal income tax for period closest in time to the consideration of District of Columbia residency;

(2) A current (issued less than forty-five (45) days prior to consideration of residency) tax withholding statement which contains the parent's or guardian's name and evidence of District of Columbia residency;

(3) A vehicle registration showing the parent's or guardian's name and evidencing District of Columbia residency;

(4) Official documentation of financial assistance from the District Government including, but not limited to, Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), housing assistance, etc.

(5) Title to residential property in the District of Columbia, or a valid, unexpired lease agreement and paid receipts or canceled checks (for a period within the two (2) months immediately preceding consideration of residency) for payment of rent on a District residence in which applicant actually resides;

(6) A valid, unexpired D.C. Motor Vehicle Operator's Permit, or nondriver's identification;

(7) Maintenance of District of Columbia voter registration;

(8) One (1) or more utility bills, and paid receipts or canceled checks (from a period within the two (2) months immediately preceding consideration of residency), showing the parent's or guardian's name and a District of Columbia residence.

(b) If the parent, court-appointed guardian or custodian cannot provide the above- described documents (e.g., in the case of a homeless student), the Superintendent or the Superintendent's designee has the discretion to grant an exemption to the required indicators of District of Columbia residency to permit attendance in a D.C. public school.

Amend Sections 2009.2 - 2009.7 as follows:

2009.2 In any case where a student has been denied admission on the grounds that the student is not a resident of the District of Columbia for the purposes of tuition-free instruction pursuant to the provisions of section 2000, the adult student or minor student's parent or guardian shall be given written notice of the denial and notice of the procedures for review of the claim of residency, as provided in this section.

2009.3 Requests for review of contested residency cases must be filed in the required time period, within ten (10) school days of the issuance of the decision, by an adult student, or minor student's parent, guardian, or other responsible adult with the Superintendent or the Superintendent's designee. If a request for review is not filed within a timely manner, then the decision by the Superintendent or the Superintendent's designee is the final administrative decision of D.C. Public Schools.

2009.4 Upon receipt of a request for review of a contested residency case, the Superintendent or the Superintendent's designee shall notify the claimant of all rights and procedures applicable to the conduct of the review.

2009.5 In all contested residency cases, the Superintendent or the Superintendent's designee shall first attempt to settle claims through fact finding, interviews, and discussion with the parties.

2009.6 The review of the contested residency shall be performed by the Superintendent or the Superintendent's designee. If, after the review of the contested residency case, it is determined that the claimant failed to provide the required proof of District of Columbia residency, the decision of the Superintendent or the Superintendent's designee shall be the final administrative decision of D.C. Public Schools.

2009.7 In all contested residency cases, currently enrolled student shall be allowed to continue to attend school without prepayment of tuition pending the final administrative decision by the D.C. Public Schools.

Delete Sections 2009.8 - 2009.16

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