Federal lawsuit alleges District 428 taxpayers spend $7.5 million to educate 1,000 out-of-district students

Gavel resting on sound block in library

A “John Doe” taxpayer lawsuit has been filed against the Community Unit School District (CUSD) #428 and its current Board of Education with the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois throught its attorney, Michael P. Coghlan, of DeKalb.

The complaint alleges taxpayers and lawfully-enrolled students were deprived of a fair hearing and notice prior to deprivations of private funds and school services caused by District 428’s failure to comply with school residency law. The suit alleges that property taxpayers were charged excessive property tax levies to pay $7,500,000 for 1,000 students who are not being schooled in the district of their lawful residence. According to the complaint, DeKalb taxpayers and students lawfully-enrolled in District 428 were deprived of equal protection when DeKalb property taxes and school resources unjustly enriched non-DeKalb jurisdictions by paying for school services of non-DeKalb students.

According to the petition any prejudice to District 428 arising from the anonymity of the Plaintiff is outweighed by the public good of this suit.

There is no public benefit at this time to disclosure of the identity of the Petitioner(s) who is/are asking for Federal Court intervention on behalf of interests which are common to all property tax payers and all lawfully-enrolled students in CUSD 428. See Doe v. Blue Cross, 112 F.3d 869 (7th Cir. 1997) allowing anonymity of Petitioners under these circumstances.

The Defendants are listed as members of The DeKalb School Board: Ms. Victoria Newport, Mr. Jeff Hallgren, Ms. Valerie Pena-Hernandez, Mr. Fred Davis, Mr. Kerry Mellott, Mr. Rick Smith, and Dr. Howard Solomon as well as unnamed “Handlers, Insiders, Mailers, and Driver” defined as a group of varying positions/roles acting with CUSD 428 employees and officials to facilitate the unlawful enrollment of non-resident students.

The lawsuit seeks:

1. Enjoin non-resident enrollment violations.
2. Declare that CUSD 428 must follow the Illinois law in 105 ILCS 5/10-20.12 when CUSD policy 7:60 is in conflict.
3. Order the appointment of a qualified and independent overseer selected by taxpayers and paid by public funds from the CUSD 428 School budget.
4. Order CUSD 428 employees and officials to report, in writing, all evidence of non-resident student enrollment violations to state and local police as well as the DeKalb County State’s Attorney’s Office and the court-appointed overseer. For purposes of meeting this request for relief, anonymous reports by CUSD 428 employees and officials should be permitted.
5. Order injunctive relief requiring the preservation of all records relating to CUSD 428 student residency from 01/01/2007 to 10/06/2017.
6. Order meaningful and sustainable reform requiring taxpayer input, requiring input from representatives of lawfully-enrolled students, and requiring an independent overseer to implement reforms in the CUSD 428 prevention of violations and enforcement of state laws relating to non-resident student enrollment violations.
7. Plaintiff(s) does/do not herein request any monetary damages, payment of legal costs, or expenses incurred by Plaintiff(s) at this time. However, Plaintiff(s) does not/do not waive its rights to amend the complaint to request restitution, reimbursement or refund of excessive tax payments.


10-4-17 Verified Complaint


  1. I doubt anyone living outside our district is trying to sneak in. Are there students living with family members that are not their legal guardian trying to live a better life? I hope so. Wouldn’t any of us move to live with others if it led to a better life for us or our family?

  2. This is a good thing…for years, other districts have had resources drained due to students (mostly from Chicago) who decide to ‘live with my auntie’ (or other distant relative) for the school year.
    Many districts hire retired cops to investigate and verify residency issues, and the math on this instance alone justifies the cost..
    Just be thankful that METRA does not come to DeKalb…yet.

    • Also, since you’re so worried about the cost, you should know that at the board meeting on this one woman consulted with a lawyer and was told that to actually pursue kicking a child out of our district is very costly and difficult to do. Because one of our federal amendments is the right to education for all children it is very difficult to convince a judge to side with a school district against a student. So we would be paying for this external auditing company, then we’d have to pay for a lawyer, just so that a judge can most likely rule against us. How does that save us money? And again, so let’s say there are 1000 children that are going to our schools from out of our district and we get a judge that will side with our district. How much money is that saving us vs how much we’re losing from the state, from what we’re spending on this external company, and the cost of a lawyer for the cases for all 1000 children? Someone else at the second meeting did the math on this and I’ll tell you now it does not add up.

    • Michelle Bejbl Thomas I’ll repeat again, renters pay taxes. You see, the OWNER of the property pays taxes. And since that individual is running a BUSINESS and not a charity, he or she passes on the expense to the renter. (This, of course, is in addition to this little thing called sales tax, which everyone pays…)

    • Well you two girls can explain all you like but until you personally receive a property tax bill for thousands of dollars that, if not paid, can cause forfeiture of the home you own you do not pay property tax. If your landlord doesn’t pay property tax on the building you’re in it costs you zero dollars. You lose nothing. Sales tax does not go to school funding. Your smug little argument is incorrect at its core.

    • Krysta Zelaya, yes, there is a right to due process…it could be simplified if kids were required to go to the school where they reside…and that should be defined as where their legal custodial parent lives…When I get my tax bill and see how much goes to the schools to cover their budget, it upsets me when those costs include out of district kids…if you live in an underperforming school district, demand accountability, and foster a culture that values and respects education and personal achievement..not flaunt the law and do this kind of stuff.

    • Michelle Bejbl Thomas Now who’s triggered? The fact is we both pay property taxes through rental and ownership. What you have attempted to do is make an emotional argument. I’m supposed to feel for your situation. But you don’t feel for the situations of these children, so why should I feel for yours?

    • Ed Burton You may not like that your taxes are going towards children who’s parents do not reside in this district, but the fact is the school district will be spending significantly more to try to kick these kids out. And I’m doing so, losing federal money for each kid. This does not save you money. And again, I do not have children. Why should my taxes go into paying for your child to go to school? Why is there no exemption for me and others in my situation? We are being forced to pay for schools that we don’t have children to attend to. You’re upset about a couple extra kids while I’m paying for the entire district.
      To be clear, I don’t mind. I want to live in a community where all children are educated. I’m just trying to show you a different perspective.

  3. Whoever filed this lawsuit is genius. Local taxpayers should not be paying for the education of students that do not live within the school district and illegal immigrants. Students residing outside of our district should attend schools within the district they live in. Since illegal immigrants aren’t legal residents/citizens, they are not entitled to the benefit of education. That’s the law.

  4. The lawyer is not looking for money. Per the artice: Plaintiff(s) does/do not herein request any monetary damages, payment of legal costs, or expenses incurred by Plaintiff(s) at this time. However, Plaintiff(s) does not/do not waive its rights to amend the complaint to request restitution, reimbursement or refund of excessive tax payments.

    • I’d be shocked if he wasn’t party to the suit. I think he pays a lot in property taxes so I understand where his concern is coming from. If the anonymity is upheld I suspect the number of Does might reach the 1000s. Many are afraid to ask questions or comment for fear of retaliation. I’ve talked with several in district employees who share these concerns. I’m wondering if the chair of the DeKalb County Board shares those concerns?

    • Melissa Gorbet Butts I think that’s how investment property portfolios are supposed to work. Overhead costs are usually passed on to the consumer. As those taxes are increased so then are the rents and it should concern any rent payer if they are being charged to educate out-of-district students. Renters not subsidized in DeKalb are paying pretty high rates. I certainly would encourage all renters to join in this suit. Anonymity would allow them to do so without fear of retailiation.

    • I imagine a lot of those out of district students live in Mason properties section 8 housing. Their real estate taxes are written off as a business loss and he brags constantly about not having paid any personal income tax for the last 30 years. But he will sue over just about anything including his hair plugs being defective so it could be him.

    • Rhino Sandberg One thing I’m certain you and I agree on is the need for some anonymity to avoid retaliation but I’m pretty sure any student living in Mason Properties in DeKalb is not an out-of-district student. I’m not so sure he accepts Section 8 vouchers. In regards to Section 8 renters and real estate taxes they pay 30% of their income in rent regardless of the amount of rent paid to the landlord or the amount of property taxes assessed on the property. If their income is $1000 per month they pay $300 in rent, even if the landlord charges $2500 per month in rent or regardless of what their property taxes are. That’s why I object to the huge property tax discount the DeKalb City Council granted the owners of University Village because again the tenants pay 30% of their income for rent. The owners are allowed to charge market rate for rent, federal taxpayers pay the difference between what the tenant pays and the market rate and the owners get to pocket the difference including any property tax discount they receive. I just don’t think that’s fair or right. I think it cheats the school district, the taxpayers and the tenants.

    • Thanks for that breakdown Mac on the Section 8. Mason properties does have section 8 housing but it is a minority of their rentals. They have a mix of student and non student rentals, close to a 50/50 split just in the city of DeKalb. The non resident DeKalb school district students are in there non student rentals.

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