Scores of affluent suburban families are falsifying residency information in order to place their children in certain desirable Boston public schools, according to City Councilor Annissa Essaibi George, who will hold a hearing on the matter Tuesday.
In an extraordinary step to encourage enforcement, Essaibi George said she would consider billing families who are found to have violated residency requirements. Currently, the school department has the power to bill families found in violation of the policy, but it rarely exercises that power, she said.
The current rate that can be charged to out-of-town families who send their children to city schools is more than $15,000 per year.
“It’s just important that we start taking this seriously,” Essaibi George said. “Boston public schools are for Boston kids.”
Daniel O’Brien, a spokesman for the school department, provided a statement that said representatives were “looking forward to discussing” the matter with the council. About 75 students have been discharged from city schools due to residency violations over the past three school years, O’Brien said, and the district’s lone residency investigator handles about 100 to 150 cases per year.
Homeless students are not included in this total, because they are lawfully allowed to move outside of the district — for instance, to a shelter — and still attend city schools, O’Brien said.
However, according to Essaibi George, vice chairwoman of the council’s committee on education, a lack of enforcement means the actual number of students ignoring residency requirements could be higher than the city knows, she said.
Assaibi George, a former high school teacher, said suburban families sometimes forge residency documents to get their children into top exam schools, early education programs, or even advanced work classes.
“Families are motivated differently, but whatever that motivation is, it is fraud,” she said. “It’s a theft of services, and I think we should be billing families that are caught committing fraud and sending their kids to schools they’re not supposed to be at.”