Buffalo school board members spent about 20 minutes last week talking about the need to ensure that suburban students aren't lying about their home addresses so that they can attend certain Buffalo public schools. Though rumors are common, and the district has the ability to investigate individual cases, there hasn't yet been any large-scale investigation of how many offenders might be out there.
While the board may be divided in many respects, they were united in their concern about parents who live outside the City of Buffalo but may be fraudulently claiming a city address to send their children to high-performing city schools like City Honors.
In light of the district's recently approved student transfer plan, which requires the district to honor the transfer requests of students wishing to move from low-performing schools into better ones, the district has no seats to spare for non-Buffalo residents, board members said.
"I don't care if it's one child that should not be in the district," said board member Sharon Belton-Cottman. "I don't care if it's six, eight, 24. I think you need a better handle on this situation ... We've got expenses up the wazoo in this district. We don't even know if we should be paying for this mess."
Board members agreed that the district’s lawyer should do a survey of all principals to get an informal determination of how many students may be living outside of the City of Buffalo and attending city schools. They also discussed tightening proof-of-residency requirements.
Board member Carl Paladino said he previously gave a list of six students who don’t live in the district to the board but that those six were never investigated. Administrators asked that the names be resubmitted.
"The principals in the schools know who doesn't live in the district," said Paladino, who has previously raised this issue as a topic of concern. "They already know. The teachers call them. It's obvious. They show up late every day. Their father is dropping them off, or their mother is dropping them off."
Although all student enrollment applications require proofs of residency, the revised application for 2014-15 also now requires parents to certify that their primary residence is in the City of Buffalo.
-- Sandra Tan