DeKalb School Tuition Payments and Residency Still Has Concerns

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In a statement by a local media outlet, the headline said that the ‘Doe’ lawsuit regarding the DeKalb School District was “Tossed”. This is misleading as the Judge said the lawsuit should have been filed in State Court rather than Federal Court. In regards to the case content, the number of student violations once proven has yet to be determined in a court of law.

The court ruling was delayed more than nine months, costing DeKalb Taxpayers and property owners millions of dollars, according to the lawsuit.

Channahon-based National Investigations Inc. investigated  20% of the nearly 6,500 DeKalb school students in the district.  The School attorney reported approximately 60 students whose residency was still in question. The concern is whether the School Administrators, School Board or Regional Superintendent took any actions to dismiss these students from the schools or collect tuition from the parents or legal guardians of these 60 students.

 If the number from the 20% of students reviewed is 60, then a full 100% audit should reveal approximately 300 plus students who would be required to pay tuition to attend school in the district. According to e-mails from National Investigations Inc., the school district was not as open and forthright on details regarding possible tuition violations.  

The case of ‘J. Doe’ vs the School District was done by a private citizen (Jim Mason) on behalf of the DeKalb Property owners and taxpayers in the DeKalb School District.  According to the report from the school attorney, dated June 19, 2018, it is not a matter if there are non-residency students attending school in DeKalb; it is how many. Future legal action may be pending.

Out-of-district tuition violations are an issue in many school districts throughout the United States. The fact that there are non-resident students attending out-of-district schools not only in Illinois but in all 50 states, as seen in lawsuits from school districts and in some case local governments.

Orland School District 135 (IL) officials notified police that a relative of a student at a District 135 school had submitted fraudulent documents claiming a false address in May of 2017.  A woman was charged with forgery after she gave school officials a false address in southwest suburban Orland Park.  Manal A. Nofal, 38, of Tinley Park, was charged with felony forgery by the Orland Park Police after providing a false residency form to the school. 

In Ohio, Kelley Williams-Bolar was found guilty of two third-degree felonies — with a possible sentence of five years in prison for each charge. She was found guilty of two counts of tampering with court records — because she put her father’s address on her daughters’ school enrollment forms in order to send her kids to a better school. 

In Washington DC, the city’s Office of State Superintendent for Education (OSSE) published an enrollment audit revealing 164 of the 570 students at Duke Ellington School of the Arts were enrolled illegally. The report details a pattern of falsified enrollment documents recording the students at D.C. residents when their families lived outside the state, resulting in an estimated $2 million in unpaid out-of-state tuition fees. Washington DC Mayor Muriel Bowser added $300,000 to the city’s 2019 budget to combat residency fraud after OSSE admitted at a Washington DC Council hearing they only employed one full-time residency fraud investigator.

According to members of the legal team representing “J. Doe”, there are new details related to this case that provides additional information on out-of-district tuition violations. Information on vehicles with out-of-district addresses have been reported dropping-off and picking up DeKalb (school) bound students.

Completing the residency investigation would determine whether DeKalb School District is being targeted as a destination for non-residency students rather than cities like Naperville and St. Charles – that have excellent ‘Illinois School Report Card’ ratings. Many school districts are self-policing their residency tuition compliance to provide accurate reporting or any tuition payments or waivers. 

There are legal ways for students to attend schools outside their home districts. It is called out-of-district tuition. Many DeKalb County families have enrolled their children in a variety of elite school programs outside their current school district including Mamion Academy and Rosary High School (a Catholic college-preparatory school for young women) in Aurora (IL). These are private schools with a tuition plan. Locally in DeKalb, there is St. Mary’s School, a tuition-based private religious school.

It is important to note that it is illegal to assist or promote false residency claims for tuition-free education in Illinois public schools, including DeKalb. Violators can face fines and jail time.  Anyone who assist in deceiving school districts on residency tuition can face legal actions according to the State of Illinois statue – Illinois Laws Regarding Residency.

Illinois Laws Regarding Residency

 In Illinois, with certain exceptions (e.g., certain children placed with foster parents), a person who knowingly enrolls or attempts to enroll in a school on a tuition-free basis a pupil known by that person to be a non-resident of the school district is guilty of a Class C misdemeanor (punishable by up to 30 days’ imprisonment, up to a $1,500 fine, or both).

Anyone who knowingly or willfully presents to any school district false information regarding a pupil’s residence to enable that pupil to attend any school in that district without paying nonresident tuition also commits a Class C misdemeanor.

Illinois law specifies that these and other residency provisions do not require a homeless child’s parent or guardian to pay tuition in connection with or as a result of the homeless child’s continued education or enrollment in a school that is chosen in accordance with any of the options provided by law (105 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/10-20.12b; 105 Ill. Comp. Stat. 45/1-10).
Also: ILCS 105 Codes

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