Hinsdale High School District 86 is seeking to collect the money it’s owed from out-of-district students who attended its schools as district residents.
The School Board hired two firms, American Heritage and National Investigations, to identify families who might be sending their children to Hinsdale Central or Hinsdale South high schools, although they live outside the district boundaries and do not pay out-of-district tuition.
To verify the residency of all students enrolled, the firms compared the students’ addresses registered with the district with electronic databases, such as property tax and electric bills.
The addresses of 107 families (which included 41 students at Central and 65 students at South) could not be verified by that preliminary step, Superintendent Bruce Law said.
Letters were mailed to those families in January notifying them to provide proof of residency within seven days.
The letter advised the families, if they are nondistrict residents, they could be charged out-of-district tuition at the rate of $90 per day, plus be convicted of a misdemeanor for falsifying residency.
Forty-eight families subsequently provided documents showing they lived in the district, Law reported.
In May, the district sent letters to 17 parents or guardians seeking tuition reimbursement of $16,168 because the investigation determined their children did not live within the district.
“Please consider this an invoice for that amount,” the letter read.
It also advised the families to register the student in the appropriate school for the upcoming school year.
Three other students withdrew from the district and one dropped out of school. Law said he does not know if the residency checking the district was doing prompted those students’ decisions to leave.
Of the initial 107 unverified residencies, the district’s law firm advised against further investigation of 26, because the students in question were seniors and would not be attending the district next year.
By law, students may finish the school year in the school where they started, even if their families move out of the district during the school year.
The district is continuing to investigate the remaining residency claims.
Law reported the district so far has spent $26,778 in fees to lawyers and the two investigative firms, plus significant district staff time, checking student residency this past school year.
The district reports it spends $16,772 per student per year. Based on that amount, the 17 families the district already has confirmed as nonresidents have cost the district upward of $285,000,
Corcoran said. He would like the district to pursue reimbursement from seniors who violated the residency rules, as well.
“I think it’s important we not make an exception (for) that,” board member Ed Corcoran said. “We are running a school, but we are also running a business.”
Board member Claudia Manley believes the number of students falsifying residency is greater than determined so far. She would like district staff to be required to report when they see signs a student lives outside the district.
Going forward, families will have to show proof of residency every school year. Affidavits may be required for students living with adults other than their parents.
Before enrollment is complete, electronic databases will be used to verify the parent or guardian lives at the address stated on the student’s registration.Tags: Hinsdale District 86