Dear PoP – Non Residents are Paying to go to DC Public Schools

Photo by PoPville flickr user rpmaxwell

“Dear PoP,

We live in Brookland, where Noyes Elementary is the assigned elementary school for our child. With the recent test cheating scandal, we are even more grateful than ever that our child was lucky enough to win an out-of-boundary spot at one of the few good DC elementary schools. Some of our neighbors have not been so lucky. Given the limited number of good elementary schools in the city and the limited number of out-of-bounds spots in each school, I find it very upsetting when I drop off or pick up my child from school to see numerous parents whose cars have Maryland license plates.

Some of these parents are likely sending their children to this school illegally, which I understand the district has policies in place to prevent. That is of course, annoying, but it is the parents who are in the wrong. But we were very surprised to learn that other parents are actually paying non-resident tuition for their children to attend the school.

According to the school district’s website, non-resident parents “may pay non-resident tuition to enroll in a DCPS school where space is available.” We don’t have a problem with that generally speaking. But it appears that the district is giving spaces to non-resident tuition payers even when there is a long waiting list of DC residents who applied via the out-of-boundary process to these schools. Shouldn’t these spots go to DC residents first, and then if (and only if) there are no remaining DC children who want to attend a particular school, be opened up to non-resident tuition payers?”

Holy cow. Did anyone else know this takes place? Does it make sense?

66 Comment

  • ah

    Consider the possibility of nannies dropping off in their own (MD) car or divorced parents with one living in MD.

    • Also consider that parents who have grandparents or relatives in DC are gaming the system.

      Happens in MoCo all the time. You have to have a pretty aggressive School Cop out checking on addresses to combat this fraud, and I’m sure DC does not.

      Write down the license numbers, meet the parents of the kids in question and snitch on them if it doesn’t look legit. If it is legit, then no harm, no foul.

      • Actually, like most things DC is incompetent, they could simply run a cross reference of the child’s social security number against the income tax database. If the parents are filing a tax return, they are claiming their child as a dependent. If the parents are divorced and the non-resident parent claim’s the child, that could be verified pretty easily.

        • That assumes schools have access to tax filings. If it’s like at the Federal level, other agencies can’t just go to IRS and cross-check people’s tax information (a common misperception when the Census is carried out).

          • The schools don’t need access to tax filings, they need access to the database that could verify a social security number matches an address. Or DC could hire school police to follow parents to the address listed when registering…hmmm, probably not.

        • Since tax documents are confidential, and this approach is impossible, it would appear that you are showing some incompetence…

          • No where did I suggest they would require the taxable income of said parent, I am merely suggesting DC already has a database with taxpayers/residents address and the children that are their dependents. It is using a similar process that they use for jury duty selection, which, by the way uses your “confidential” tax rolls to identify jurors.

  • Schools in PG county are getting worse so people that live out there are sending their kids to schools in the District. That or one parents lives in the city and one lives in MD. That or they have a relative that live in D.C. so they use their address to enroll their child in D.C.

    PG county schools are overcrowded and getting worse.

  • Yes, it is sad fact that non-residents send their children to DCPS, because the schools in nearby PG are just as bad or worse. This is more abuse during HS summer school, which the DC provides for free and other school district charge. There is little to no enforcement.
    Just like DC Public housing, look in the parking lots to many of these building and you to will see a majority of overnight cars with MD plates.

  • I’m not sure the conclusion you’ve drawn is from seeing MD plates at a DC school is valid. More likely, you are observing the time-honored illegality of a DC resident registering their car in MD because the tax rate and inspection requirements are less burdensome. At least 10% of the people living in the houses within 3 blocks of me drive cars with MD plates.

    • MD vehicle inspection is also pretty common for DC residents since it drops your auto insurance about 50%.

      • Please elaborate. If I take my DC registered vehicle to MD and have it inspected and submit it to my insurance company, my rate will go down 50%?

        • I’m not sure what ontarioroader meant, but a MD inspection is worthless on a DC-registered car, and vice versa. You have to have an inspection from the jurisdiction where the car is registered.

          • People are registering their cars at a family/friend’s house in MD is the implication.

          • My mistake, I meant registration not inspection. Lots of DC residents register their vehicles with friends, family or at a workplace with a MD address. Insurance in MD is generally a good deal cheaper than in DC. this obviously doesn’t work to well if you need a zone permit to park on the street, but for those with off-street or lax parking regs, this is really common.

  • My experience (with one child in DCPS and one in a DC public charter school) is that there are few if any folks from MD who are actually paying for their kids to go to DCPS/DC Charter Schools. Like ah and Slick Pullah said, often it is kids who have one parent in DC and one in MD (or VA for that matter), or nannies dropping off kids.
    Another possibility (one that I see at my charter school) is that there are in fact quite a number of folks in DC who keep their car registered in MD – I presume it is because of cheaper registration up there.

  • I’d like to hear from a DCPS school secretary on this one.

    They seem to know the most.

    Please, any school secretaries who are surfing on the net, which I doubt you are, please answer.

  • I sent the question into POP. Good point about the mis-registering of cars, Jim. I hadn’t thought of that. But my question was more about the tuition-paying non-residents. Several parents at my child’s school told me directly that they live in Maryland and pay tuition to attend the school. I didn’t get into the details with them of why they do that or even how they went about setting it up, but I do know that my child’s school had a number of people on the waiting list who did not get in via the out-of-boundary process.

  • I’m on the outraged bench, but I can see rationale to accepting a paying student over a non-paying one. Extra revenue.

    But what pisses me off much MUCH more is the school voucher bill passed by another set of non-residents (some of them sleeping in their offices on the Hill) that continues to rob DCPS of much needed funding. I guess hypocrisy is okay if you can back it up with some crying.

  • It would be disgusting if a Maryland county’s district resident were to get preference over the local district resident, all money aside.

    There is only one bit of good news about this — and that is that real parents who actually have kids in schools know that some public schools are good, and actually worth paying for.

    I know two well-to-do families in Arlington, for example, who looked at all the private schools, and decided, hands down the public ones were better. We don’t hear near enough of such stories. We need it. We need good schools, and we need a positive word, now more than ever.

    Many would like to destroy the whole system, kit and kaboodle.

  • Charter schools do this as well. It’s perfectly legal. Sometimes DC schools offer a curriculum not offered elsewhere (at least not in the DC-metro area) and when those schools are just getting started (as most charter schools in DC are) they sometimes need students. In these cases it’s win-win. The schools get enrolled, and parents have more options for their kids (that are cheaper than private schools, I assume). This isn’t about someone who lives in MD keeping a DC address just to stay at a better school, although I’m sure that happens.

  • DC also now has pretty good Preschools for as early as 3, which may be attracting the out of towners.

    Maryland is also quite a nice place for illegal immigrants to have their “papers”, so perhaps that is affecting this too.

  • I don’t really see a problem with this situation.

    If indeed a DC student is being bumped out of a public school spot for a paying student, whether it be the local school or one across town, that is wrong and should stop.

    Private or charter schools which are always limited should be exempt from that condition. If someone wants to pay, let them. This in turn adds needed revenue to that school system.

    If you child’s school is not meeting your expectations join the PTA – participate.

    You have a voice.

  • To follow up on my other comment and clarify (I sent the question to POP), I agree that if a school is having trouble attracting students and has spots open that no DC children have applied for, it is fine to allow non-residents to attend and pay tuition. My concern was that non-resident tuition-payers were given spots at my child’s school even though there were still a number of DC residents on the waiting list from the out-of-boundary process. If there are any spots open at a particular school and a DC child wants to go there, I believe the DC resident should have priority over a non-resident, even if the non-resident is willing to pay tuition.

    • I agree with your thoughts if you are talking about a public schools only.

      In the case of charter or private, ok – if the DC resident want to go and can pay, they should be given preference to the limited slots.

      If they can’t pay, then no, that is why we have public schools.

      No child should be refused entry to a public school.

  • I used to work in DCPS central office and I can say for a fact that for schools with a waitlist, DCPS will not admit any out of state students, especially in ps (3 year olds) and pk (4 year olds) where the demand is so great. If a family does not live in the district, they will not be admitted. Obviously, it’s not a perfect system, and some families slip through the cracks…you can only imagine what some families will do to try and pull a fast one with some schools…but if a school suspects that a family does not have accurate residency, they can file a claim and the DCPS Residency Office will investigate. Families that cannot prove residency are excluded from the school. If there are any out of state families that are attending, it’s only if there is first space for all the district residents.

    • Thanks for the insight. Does that include schools where there is a waitlist for out-of-boundary students (as opposed to kids who live in the immediate neighborhood)? I know for a fact that my child’s school has an out-of-boundary waitlist, so it’s hard to reconcile that with the parents who told me they live in Md. and pay tuition.

      • ah

        What if they enrolled in the school when there was not an OOB waitlist? I imagine that once enrolled a child is permitted to continue to reenroll until they “graduate” from that school.

    • It sounds like the parents who said they were paying were lying to the OP.

      • Ha! You may be right. Maybe I was being naive to believe them. Maybe they just live in Maryland, are gaming the system, and tell people that they pay tuition to avoid suspicion!

    • There are schools with huge wait lists who admit students from other states and even from abroad. Ellington. School without Walls. These are spots that could go to DC kids.

  • My mom takes care of my sister’s kids including picking them up at school – she has DC plates and my niece goes to school in MD, to her neighborhood school. It’s quite likely that the person picking up and dropping off the kids isn’t a parent, but a grandparent, nanny, etc.

    • We’ll be in the same boat come fall… kid will be going to a DCPS, but at least once a week, the MD-residing-and-registered grandparents will do dropoff/pickup.

      As for out-of-towners paying tuition, I say great… as long as all DC residents had their shot and the local waitlist is cleared.

  • Does anyone know the outcome of this story? Was the kid in question a paying student?–57268.html

    • According to this article, “So far this year that inspector has investigated 99 cases and 40 of those turned out to be non-residents and were forced to leave school or pay tuition.” If turns out that those investigated were at a school that has DC children waiting to attend it, I think they should not be permitted to just pay tuition and that spot should be opened to a DC resident. This bothers me because it pains me to hear my neighbors say they may have to move out of DC because they can’t rely on our neighborhood schools, they can’t get into a good school via the out-of-bounds lottery, and they can’t afford a good private school.

      • Right.

        And it’s really quite common that people are lying about this — all the time. It is also sometimes hard for the schools to know. The staff really are busy, usually. Often the secretaries do understand when grandma is picking kid up in her Maryland car, but if they check with you, you should be proud.

        If you hear someone say they’re not really a resident, please convey it to the school secretaries –and in writing.

        The numbers games in schools is incredibly important for staffing too. Until you’ve seen a $65,000 special education teacher get pulled from a room where they were once helping 10 to help one new student with extraordinary needs, you can’t imagine what this type of thing means.

      • ah

        I would guess that paying tuition will mean that they withdraw at the end of the year.

        Not that cheating the schools is right, but I would let the kid stay in the school through the end of the year. It’s less their fault than their parents, and it’s not exactly helping the child to have him/her switch schools 2/3 of the way through the year.

  • hello cross-poster from DCUM…

  • A while ago, I was told by a DCPS elementary student himself that even though he was at that school, he didn’t live in DC. He was concerned that if it were discovered, he would be expelled, and I didn’t have the heart to investigate it (not being a school employee anyway). [This was a traditional public school, but I have no idea if there was a waitlist].
    Similarly, just last year DC decided to crack down on out-of-state people taking advantage of DC’s shelters during hypothermia season.

  • When my father was in high school in the 50’s (in Prince George’s County), it was a status symbol for his neighbors to pay to go to McKinley Tech in the District. My how times change..

  • I work with DCPS (but not for DCPS) and I can’t tell you how many of DCPS students actually live in PG or even Montgomery County and use their grandparents’ or aunt’s or another relative or family friend’s address. It’s extremely frustrating as a DC taxpayer to hear these stories (kids will openly tell me they live in PG, when I know they go to school in DC). At the same time, a lot of these children’s lives are extremely transient and they don’t have a fixed home. But, DCPS needs to do a better job policing these cases. I’m sorry that PG schools are such a mess, but so are many of ours, and DCPS can’t afford to waste resources.

  • Students going to school outside their residential districts have been going on for YEARS ALL OVER THE COUNTRY

    This is not news!

    • That doesn’t mean it isn’t a problem that’s been ignored and has possibly gotten out of hand.

      School dollars are paid with District incomes, not Maryland incomes. If Maryland wants to pony up an extra check to the DC Treasury, then they can send their kids here.

  • Yes this came as a big surprise to me too when my kids became DCPS students. It is going on in all the schools, whether they’re “good” schools or not — it is more convenient for the parents, so they lie to get their kids into a DC school. Or, they used to live in the District and moved out but still manage to prove residency every year. Disgusting and widespread.

  • yes, md parents pay, that is a fact. I teach at a charter school that is close to md and many many of my kids live in md and pay tuition. but I agree that regular schools that have extensive waiting lists shouldn’t allow that. but they will, it means more $$$$$

  • I knew a PG resident who lived in PG but rented a cheap apt to get a major position in DC govt during Tony Williams reign. He would drive his kids to Fairfax Cnty where his parent’s lived so they could go to a better school.

    I think that there is a lot of DC parents who do the same thing to get their kids into school in MoCo and Fairfax. Not that I am condoning the action.

  • I work at a DCPS school. I would say that at the very least 5% of our students live in Maryland (and I am being conservative). I base this percentage on the number of students that I know for sure live in maryland and I know there has to be a whole lot more.

    I work at an elementary school and the kids usually will say hey live in Maryland or if they deny at first they will admit it during the course of a conversation. These parents do not pay tuition.

    Before people get angry and ask why we don’t “turn them in” please think about this: Most of these students’ parents used to live in the neighborhood of my school but have been forced out of DC due to gentrification. They are poor and can’t afford to pay tuition.

    DC needs more affordable housing to keep these families in their communities.

    • O Anonymous at 10:56. Thank you for your honesty and empathy for the poorer kids — probably the at-risk ones, coming from homes where the parents split, etc.– in other words, the kind who precisely need some stability provided by a school community.

      It sucks nonetheless.

      #1. As stated, it sucks for the kids, who will pay the biggest price for discrepancies, and of course, made no decisions about it, do not vote. Of all involved they will have no say in this and pay the greatest price.

      #2. The reputation of teachers and staff will take a hit as is en vogue because there is a movement to quantify their progress, yet there is little room for such real-life problems with their “products” (aka the kids’ lives) and this cannot be quantified in data. The realities of kids moving and being priced out of their neighborhoods are real, constant, and common. The basic “data” is varying constantly.

      #3. It sucks because often, higher-achieving schools will catch onto this quickly and will not stand for it. Honest.

      #4. The wrong district is paying for the services, where services are limited, getting cut, and have real consequences. (See note about a 65,000 special ed teacher getting pulled from one room to another.).

      #5. There are all these folks who are a little disrespectful of the people who lived here before them. They think it’s all about money, or capitalism. They write on blogs like this, that paying such-and-such is normal and not too high. But it is. There are those who pay the price ultimately — and it plays out with kids like this. Some rents are too high. There are lots and lots of people in the CITY who work at $12/hr jobs and we actually NEED them. YES! We do. And we need them to be able to live here.

      Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy with our transformations, but let’s keep our feet on the ground and see how this all works together.

      Onward with a mixed, kind, transforming, community.

  • On a related topic, I live near lots of churches, and on Sunday the streets are FILLED with Md. tags — Md folks using DC property tax-free. I support churches that serve the local community, but these don’t.

    • you may be new here and so you realize that dc used to be part of maryland and that thee is a deep connection marylanders have with the district. many of these people used to live in dc, or their family does. they are going to their historic churches. now, maybe you also do not realize the vital role that the church has played in the black community in america. it was, at one point, the only place black people could voice their opinions. this is a long long tradition dating many generations in this area. that’s hard to break because all of the sudden in the last 5-10 years some people have started getting uptight about it. our city is everyday filled with people that do not live within our misshaped diamond. you knew that when you moved here, and you won’t be able to change that. and if you do manage to change it, you will have destroyed something you know little about, beyond your inconvenience.

    • Maybe I’m naive, but I don’t understand the connection between residency and houses of worship.

      • The tags, the tags. On any given Sunday MD plates outnumber DC tags in my neighborhood 3 to 1. If I move my car from in front of my house (3 blocks away), I can’t park near the house again until after church. Never mind the double parking that chokes the entire neighborhood from GA Ave to Kansas Ave.
        DC was part of Maryland 200 years ago. So, if you belong to St. Paul’s on RCC, I can see what you are saying, having been here 20 generations. . . Traditions change as the people do and the people are changing rapidly. Although, I don’t see how double parking your car has anything to do with worship. Jesus didn’t drive.
        It’s your inconvenience you are taking about here, not mine. I own my house and have every right to get cranky when I cannot come and go as I please. I too am a part of the neighborhood. Perhaps more so because I have to pay taxes whereas the church is exempt.

        But basically, the people moved out, but the churches stayed put.

        • yes, you are free to get cranky. how does that help you deal with reality?

          you have two solutions:

          1. get parking enforcement to ticket.
          2. vandalize the cars.

          good luck with either of those, crankypants.

          • Parking enforcement & MPD will NOT ticket/tow double parked or otherwise illegally parked churchies. It just won’t happen.

          • Deal with reality? C’mon now, we’re in DC! Probably the only place where home owners in a neighborhood are wrong for being unhappy when there’s a deluge of strangers jamming their cars into any and every available area.

  • The church parking thing is a clusterf>ck and a blight on our city. It will never change in our lifetime, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a huge pile of shit for us taxpayers.

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