"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Who Needs Gated Schools When You Have Bounty Hunters?

As the houses, cars, and people in the burbs get bigger and bigger, there is an accompanying shrinkage in taxpayer willingness to support increases to fund what was once known as the public good. The result in New Jersey middle class enclaves where the school systems are small enough to have historically maintained segregation? Bounty hunters to locate and roust out cheaters from poor communities who are trying to enroll their children in schools that are not dead end testing factories. What else. From the NY Times:

At 8 o’clock one morning, Juanita Ludwig and Vincent Constantino, employees of Clifton Public Schools, are knocking on the door at a house to check a tip. Someone had said a Clifton elementary school student did not really live there and was sneaking in from another district.

Ms. Ludwig, the supervisor of counseling and student services, explains to the parent who answers the door that the district must check to see that the child lives there most of the time. “We made sure there were age-appropriate toys for an 8-year-old child,” she said. “We explain to the parents that the child must stay at the house at least four nights a week.”

. . . .

And there are many ways to find students who don’t belong. Bounties, detectives, stakeouts with cameras, and hot lines that receive tips from anonymous callers are tools that some school districts use to combat the perennial problem of illegally enrolled students.

. . . .

Under state law, a student a student may legally attend the school in the district where he or she resides the majority of the time. Out-of-district students are required to pay tuition.

Three years ago, the Clark Public School District hired a retired police officer to investigate cases of illegal students. The investigator has parked outside students’ homes to see if they come out in the morning and checked documents like licenses and car registrations.

“The key word here is domicile,” Superintendent Vito Gagliardi said. “The child must live in the house as a primary residence.”

. . . .

Ewing has one full-time attendance officer and four part-time officers, said Raymond Broach, the school superintendent. “It’s a pretty steady issue,” he said. Students have been caught coming in from Bristol and Morrisville, Pa., across the Delaware River.

In Teaneck, Al Schulz, a retired police detective, is attendance officer. Sometimes, he watches to see if students are coming over the George Washington Bridge from New York, said David Bicofsky, the district spokesman.

“You are talking $10,000 to $11,000 a year to educate a student,” he said. “You have to be vigilant for your taxpayers.”

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