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Student Fraud

Residency Fraud: Stealing Resources from Students

According to the U.S. Census Bureau the average per pupil spending is $11,392 per year. This figure can grow exponentially when taking special education students into account. Student residency fraud occurs when a student is being educated by a school or district that the student does not reside in causing an imbalance of funds generated by taxation against funds spent to provide educational services.

There are many reasons parents or guardians attempt to commit residency fraud. Some school districts have higher rated educational programs, some spend more money per student, and some have better sports programs. It is often common to see parents who have moved to try to keep students in a prior district in an attempt to keep them with known friends or teachers.

Some of the most common cases of residency fraud occur when a parent lies about their current address to have a student placed in a particular school district. The parent may even go as far as providing false or forged documentation to the district at the time of enrollment. Many larger districts do not have the time or resources to fully investigate or verify each student that enrolls so the fraud gets caught up in the shuffle and is never discovered. This can go undiscovered for years leading to the district spending thousands of tax dollars educating a student they are not responsible to educate. This also takes budgetary resources away from students that the district is responsible to educate.

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Sports Residency Fraud

Sports residency fraud is a common occurrence among schools with prominent sports programs. At the High School level, some sports programs are prime targets for college recruiters offering scholarships. Parents or guardians will often commit residency fraud in an effort to get their students on particular teams and in front of prospective recruiters. This situation hurts the school district taxpayers threefold. First, the cost to provide educational services in the classroom is paid for by the district taxpayers. Second, the cost of the sports program including coaching staff, equipment, specialized training, and other factors are paid for by the district. Finally, the student athletes legitimately on the sports team may be passed over for scholarship opportunities in favor of the out of district student.

The motivation for student residency fraud may vary but the results are the same. The school district taxpayers are paying for a student that they are not responsible for educating. The responsibility to investigate these occurrences of fraud falls on the board of education or administration of the school district. It can seem like a daunting task, especially to larger districts with many thousands of students enrolled. Verify Residence exists to help administrators and school boards meet this responsibility and provide the best educational experience for their students as possible.

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Special Education Costs to a District

The average cost per Special Education student is $9,369. This is the additional cost on top of the average cost per student per year. That equates to an average total of $16,921 per student per year. If you put that into perspective, it costs up to $77.3 billion on average to provide Special Education services to students in The United States. To compare this to an individual state, New York’s average spending per Special Education student is $19,510. This covers the cost of “… instruction of students with disabilities in a general-education setting,” which excludes transportation, debt service, and district-wide administration, (data.nysed.gov). Many school districts have varying costs which could be higher or lower than the national average. Taking the numbers into consideration clearly puts the cost of student residency fraud into perspective.

In order to provide these services, a district needs to hire Special Education Advocates. Depending on the type of advocate needed, the cost per pupil may rise. On average, a Special Education Teacher may earn between $29,277 and $49,493 a year. That does not include the cost of paraprofessionals, behaviorists, therapists, or at home care representatives. Additionally, the cost of providing Professional Development for teachers has resulted in an average of about $18,000 per year per teacher. Though training and professional development for teachers and paraprofessionals is imperative for supporting students with special needs, it does not include the cost of materials. Materials for students with special needs can include specific furniture, sensory related devices, rooms with quiet spaces and specific lighting, restraint chairs, swings, rocking chairs, electronic devices, weighted vests, exercise balls, finger manipulatives, resources made available in audio or braille and more.

Out-of-District Students Take Away Resources from In-District Students

An article written by Sarah D. Sparks in 2016 noted that districts with high student mobility show higher percentages for students with disabilities, (Sparks, 2016). Districts that have higher percentages of students with disabilities require a higher budget to compensate for the additional services. Additional services can include, but not be limited to, additional teaching and paraprofessional staff, learning devices, physical aids, multisensory teaching aids, and more. While this already poses a budgetary issue for the district, if the student’s residence is not from within the district limits, the resources will be drawn from members from the community whether their child is in need of those resources or not. Therefore, leaving an imbalance in the budget to support the needs of the students that have been living in that community and paying taxes towards their education. Verify Residence is a resource made available to school districts in need of identifying which students are living within the borders of a school district or area to ensure that expenditures of all students are being accounted for and budgeted for properly.

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