Thursday, January 17, 2008

Educational Robin Hood: Sneaking into Out-of-District Schools

Today's blog post is authored by an Hispanic CREO intern, Moira Nadal. For comments or questions, she can be reached at

An article in the New York Times reveals a crisis currently faced by many suburban school districts: students claiming false residence to sneak into out-of-district schools. It describes the experience of one school in New Jersey trying to deal with this problem and the drastic measures administrators have turned to in order to cope. To combat this major problem, for example, school districts are hiring investigators and retired policemen, creating anonymous hotlines and posting bounties for reports of out-of-district students that are proven to be true.

The lack of educational opportunities that creates this phenomenon is a problem for students across the US. Several sources in the article are quoted as saying that students’ sneaking in is a persistent problem in their districts. This is clearly a manifestation of parents' need to have more and better options for schooling their children. In several parents’ and community blogs across the nation, parents admit to sending their children to out-of-district schools and give many reasons why they choose to do so. For many parents in the Berkeley area, for example, the issue of convenience came up for working parents who want their child’s school to be closer to their place of work. In Georgia’s Henry County, many seem to believe that a search for better facilities is leading students to sneak in from neighboring counties.

Other forums mention students who want to switch to another school because of smaller classes, better teachers, and safer learning environments. These reasons for transferring are particularly relevant to Latino students, who are disproportionately enrolled in failing or persistently dangerous schools. For many low-income Hispanics, especially those who are denied school choice and lack the resources to pay for private school, transferring to an out-of-district school - or sneaking in - may be the only viable opportunity for a decent education.

There are still many parents who wish that their child’s school were more convenient, to their work or to a caregiver. There are parents frustrated by the lack of qualified teachers and learning materials, overcrowding, and violence; who wish for their children to be able to go to schools with more competitive sports teams or with specialized language classes. There are many reasons that students are sneaking illegally into other school districts - these reasons are the same why parents deserve to be given more power over their children’s school choices.

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