Tonight’s 11 p.m. newscast on ABC-7 led with the news that in recent weeks, SFUSD has caught over 80 students who live outside the City sneaking into high-demand SFUSD schools like Lowell High School and Sherman Elementary. Readers of this blog might recall that as part of the new student assignment policy, the Board asked the Superintendent to beef up address verification, since the new system will place more weight on where students live than we have in the past.
As part of that effort, the school district asked community members to report people who are using a fraudulent address to attend SFUSD. With very little outreach effort, tips came pouring in. After investigation, many of those tips have turned out to be valid.
According to ABC 7 News, many of the students have been attending their schools for several years, and the prospect of being kicked out is upsetting to everyone. Sherman Elementary principal Sara Shenkan-Rich (one of SFUSD’s two principals of the year for 2010) expressed regret that some of her students who have attended since Kindergarten will have to leave the school. But parents who waited for months for admission to Sherman pointed out that, as San Francisco residents, their right to attend Sherman should come first — ahead of people who live in other cities.
I have to say that there appears to have been a somewhat lackadaisical view of address verification in recent years, since where you live (as long as you live in San Francisco) has had less weight in our assignment system over the past decade. Generally, revenue limit districts like ours have less of a financial incentive to verify whether students actually live in the district; that incentive is even weaker when a district’s overall enrollment is declining (as ours was over the past decade). I don’t mean to suggest that people were intentionally looking the other way — I know there were efforts made to verify addresses. I just mean that perhaps we underestimated the resourcefulness of some families in cities like Oakland, Richmond, and Daly City who were determined to attend certain schools in SFUSD.
Anyway, there is a new sheriff in town, and the Board has made clear that we will investigate (and in extreme cases, prosecute) any cases of address fraud. Families who lie to get their children accepted into SFUSD schools will be caught, so my advice to anyone considering using a fraudulent address would be: Don’t chance it.