Bethlehem School District employs private investigators to track down students with fraudulent home addresses. According to The Morning Call, DBM Investigations and Consulting has identified 35 students fraudulently enrolled in Bethlehem schools who will now be expelled:
Superintendent Joseph Roy told the board that DBM used multiple methods to determine whether students and their families actually live in the district, such as looking at public records and knocking on doors. In some cases, an investigator staked out houses to see who came and went, Roy said.
“For people who are purposefully misleading us and lying about their address, that requires more intensive investigation,” Roy said. “But we're very, very pleased with the result at a really small cost to the district.”
Roy said the district is not pursuing any financial compensation or criminal penalties against the offending families, though it legally could have.
Why is this happening? Two reasons.
First: Nearby Allentown School District limits the number of Allentown students permitted to enroll in charter schools. In so doing, Allentown owes less money to charters and forces the charters to enroll students from other districts.
This doesn’t change the fact that parents in Allentown are desperate for charter schools. So they submit paperwork with phony Bethlehem residences—thereby requiring the charter school to bill Bethlehem instead of Allentown.
Secondly, The Morning Call explains that some of the fraudulent addresses are from parents who want to enroll in Bethlehem public schools but do not live within district boundaries.
To be clear: families should not be celebrated for knowingly submitting false paperwork. But stories such as these demonstrate the lengths parents will go when they are denied educational choice.
Further, they underscore the need to free children from arbitrary school district boundaries. Whether that means expanding access to charter schools, increasing the caps on Pennsylvania’s private scholarship programs, or enacting education savings accounts—all families deserve multiple educational options.
Be thankful if you live in a district with a high quality public school—or have the means to afford private or homeschooling alternatives. Beyond that? Think about supporting school choice for all children in Pennsylvania. Where you live should never determine the quality of your education.