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Roughly 40 Percent of Students at D.C. Public High School Aren't District Residents, Investigation Finds

May 11, 2018

By Erin Thibeau

An internal investigation has found that at least 150 students, around 40 percent, at Duke Ellington School of the Arts do not live in the District and are not paying the tuition required of non-residents. The report on the investigation's findings was released on Friday, May 11.

The number of students who claim to reside in D.C. but actually live elsewhere, avoiding fees, represents more than $2 million in D.C.-taxpayer funded education a year.

Duke Ellington is one of D.C.'s most desirable public schools, according to the Washington Post. The D.C. Office of the Attorney General, which handles residency fraud, will take over these students cases. The Post reports that the law allows the city to seek triple damages against people who who commit school residency fraud and that this week the attorney general announced residency lawsuits against two families that totaled more than $800,000. 

Read the below statement from Councilmember David Grosso, chairperson of the Committee on Education, on residency fraud at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education:

“Today’s report not only confirms the stunning depth of residency fraud at Duke Ellington, but also that the previous two chancellors had repeatedly lied to the Committee and the Council about how profound this problem is. I continue to grow frustrated with the lack of transparency from D.C. Public Schools and the Executive and this is the latest blow to their credibility. That is why I pushed to have OSSE assume responsibility of DCPS residency investigations last year and made investments through the annual budget process to provide resources to fulfill those responsibilities.

“Through their diligent work, the agency has revealed that about 40 percent of students at Duke Ellington, representing over $2 million in D.C.-taxpayer funded education a year, are not District residents and had no plan to reimburse the District for tuition. Under no circumstances is this acceptable.

“I appreciate the work of OSSE and Superintendent Hanseul Kang on this issue. Over the years she has acknowledged that investigating residency fraud was an area that OSSE needed to improve. Today’s report, along with the additional 90 cases of potential residency fraud from throughout the District that OSSE has referred to the Attorney General this school year, show that the agency is ensuring that D.C. schools are serving D.C. students.

“The District of Columbia is full of brilliant young artists and musicians who deserve the ability to attend Duke Ellington. One of the premier public arts education programs in the country, the school should serve D.C. families first and foremost. Yet the breadth of these allegations shows that the school and DCPS were, at the least, extremely lax in oversight.

“I will be monitoring DCPS’ and Duke Ellington’s compliance with the corrective action plan laid out by OSSE to improve both school-level and central office compliance with our residency requirements. Additionally, I will continue to support OSSE’s role of investigating and reporting residency fraud in D.C. schools by making the necessary investments, including the four additional full-time equivalents and $300,000 for contract support approved unanimously by the Education Committee last week for FY2019.”

You can read the full report here.

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