Parkland School District is cracking down on families who send their children to school there but don’t live within the district.
Last fall, the district hired a former state trooper part-time to investigate allegations that some students attend Parkland schools but actually reside in other districts, such as Allentown.
“It’s a violation of the law,” said Parkland Assistant Superintendent Rodney Troutman. “The law says the student must attend school in the district where they reside.”
During a March budget committee meeting, Troutman briefed the school board on the investigator’s progress. Of the 34 students investigated, 10 had withdrawn after the parents were confronted with the evidence. Nine were confirmed to be living in Parkland municipalities and four moved into the district. The investigator is still looking into 11 other cases.
Often the district is tipped off by members of the community who don’t feel it’s fair that they have to pay Parkland school taxes but the non-residents who sneak their kids in, don’t, he said. Troutman said the district has had students whose actual home is in New York City but they come to Parkland for the school year and go back to New York for the summer.
The investigator has staked out bus stops and homes to compile evidence of where the student really lives. If he finds compelling proof that the child is residing in another district, Troutman calls the parents in.
“Most have been pretty cooperative,” he said. “If they’re caught, they withdraw.” From those families, the district seeks reimbursement of $54 per day for students grades 6-12 and $51 per day for those in grades K-5. Parkland does not accept students from outside the district on a tuition basis so families must either move into the district or withdraw their child.
The district hasn’t yet had to seek civil redress from non-resident families at the district magistrate’s office, Troutman said.
There are situations where one family moves in with another in Parkland and sends their kids to district schools and that’s legal so long as they file the proper paperwork.
“In this day and age, when people are losing their jobs, they may move in with their grandparents,” he said.
Asked if the crackdown is related to the weak economy and budget cuts, Troutman said it's simply about enforcing the law. In fact, when a non-resident withdraws from Parkland schools, the per-student state subsidy goes with him or her.
“It’s the responsibility I have to the community,” Troutman said. “If you don’t reside in that school district full time, you’re taking opportunities from a student who does reside there.”