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Opinion

Examiner Local Editorial: D.C.'s hypocritical crackdown on residency fraud

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Opinion,Local Editorial

Despite its winning 8-3 record, Woodrow Wilson High School was barred from D.C.'s 43rd annual Turkey Bowl last Thursday after fielding an illegible player in two District of Columbia Interscholastic Athletic Association games. Wilson was forced to forfeit, allowing Anacostia H.S. to advance to the championship game even after losing a league playoff game to Wilson. The reason is that one of their players lives in Maryland.

After vowing to crack down on residency fraud last year, DC Public Schools is finally doing so. It is sending an unmistakable message that it will not be tolerated.

Although there's no federal data, educators agree that residency fraud is a nationwide problem. Some parents game the system by fraudulently enrolling their children in top-rated schools in Dupont Circle, Capitol Hill and Tenleytown using fake leases or other phony documentation.

In May, Washington Examiner reporter Lisa Gartner reported that the Office of the State Superintendent of Education could not verify the District addresses of 126 students. Nearly all of them -- 118 -- were special education students whom the District was sending to attend expensive private schools at taxpayers' expense, to the tune of $7.7 million. The city's Public Charter School Board was also investigating the residency of 32 students who are enrolled in charter schools. Last month, the District even sued a woman who lives in Maryland for $31,294 in nonresident tuition for enrolling her child in a public school for four years by pretending to be a D.C. resident.

School districts throughout the U.S. are hiring private investigators to comb through public databases, trace parents' license plates and even stake out their stated addresses in unmarked vehicles.

It's good to see the District move to enforce the law and protect it citizens from those who falsely claim legal residence so that they can claim often-expensive benefits at taxpayers' expense. But in 2011, Mayor Vincent Gray signed an executive order forbidding police officers from asking about the immigration status even of people they actually arrest for committing crimes. So the DCPS crackdown on nonresident students is somewhat incongruous with the city's sanctuary policies. It's hard to defend a policy that targets U.S. citizens from Maryland and Virginia for sneaking into D.C. public schools with fake identity papers while giving a free pass to violent criminal suspects who sneak in from much farther away.

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