Washington D.C. has cracked down on parents from Maryland and Virginia who lie about where they live so that their children can attend D.C. schools. Education Watchdog reports that D.C. officials conducted 70 investigations for residency fraud last year. The stakes are high for these parents: those who commit residency fraud face up to 90 days in jail and may be required to pay back tuition, which can come in at $15,000 per year.
Why would parents be willing to take this kind of risk? Most likely, due to a lack of school choice in their home school districts. While Washington has a healthy school choice environment—about 76 percent of students in D.C. attend a school other than their assigned school—the city’s suburbs offer few options for families. Parents who feel that their child’s school isn’t the right fit can either pay for a private school education or they can move. For most families, those aren’t options.
Perhaps that’s why 70 percent of Americans support charter schools. They don’t think it’s right that a student’s education, and their future, should be tied to their zip code. All students, regardless of where they live or how much money their parents make, have the right to a high-quality education at a school that works for them. Some students are thriving in arts-focused charter schools while others succeed in a bilingual program.
One-size education does not fit all and the growing number of parents taking great risks to access school choice for the sake of their children’s futures agree. Likely, there are many more families that, while unwilling to break the law, wish they had more options. We know that’s the case for the more than one million student names on charter school wait lists.
You can make a difference for these families without options. Join the charter schools action network to make sure that charter schools continue to grow and give families real school choice in public education.
Kim McCabe is the Advocacy Manager at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.