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Courant Editorial and LTEs on Interdistrict School Enrollment

Tuesday July 30, 2013

Hartford Courant editorial and letters to the editor on interdistrict school enrollment

EDITORIAL: WHICH IS THE CRIME: SCHOOL ADDRESS FRAUD OR UNEQUAL EDUCATION?

It will no longer be a criminal matter to send children to an out-of-district public school, but that doesn’t address the larger question

Starting Oct. 1, it will no longer be a criminal offense to send children to an out-of-district public school in Connecticut. The new law settles the question of whether stealing an education should be in the same league as other theft — it won’t be — but it doesn’t address why people want to falsify their children’s home addresses in the first place.

Here’s the simple answer: Local taxes pay for local schools. That results in statewide educational inequality, with affluent suburban communities generally enjoying much better schools than poorer ones, including the cities.

Some families have resorted to falsification to get around the system.

In 2010, a Stratford grandmother was arrested for sending her grandchildren to school in that town, instead of in Milford, where their mother lived. She later sued in federal court, saying the arrest amounted to a violation of her civil rights.

This week, a judge ruled against her. It was the correct decision. Her supporters claimed she was “trying to do what was best for the child,” which is very likely true, but under the law, she had committed larceny.

The new law makes address falsification a civil matter, which is preferable to turning an otherwise caring relative into a criminal. A family charged with lying about residency will face a board of education hearing and, if there is a violation, may be assessed the cost of the schooling.

But if the legislature wants to really stop address fraud, it must deal with the regressive way public education is funded in our state.

Supporters of change call the present system “education by ZIP code” — an apt description.

But changing it won’t be easy. Wealthy suburbs, hoping to avoid as many of the ills of the inner city as possible, guard their school districts with vigor and are not likely to agree to any plan that even sounds like regionalization.

Copyright © 2013, The Hartford Courant

 

LETTER: Force Hometowns To Pay Out-Of-District Tuition

The state Department of Education’s Special Master Steven Adamowski appears to have a solution to the dilemma of the Stratford grandmother who has had to pay out-of-district tuition for her Milford-resident grandchildren: Let Milford pay!

Adamowski claims that the state authorizes him to force Windham to pay out-of-district tuition for Windham students to attend Norwich Free Academy and Parish Hill School, even if, in the case of NFA, the amount of money is far greater than district options and the slots are dispensed in an unfair manner.

Adamowski recently challenged the Windham Board of Education to approve his decision to create this quasi-voucher system or take it up with the state education commissioner. Of course, the impotent board caved, but this is good news to all those families who have been stealing tuition or been chased out of the wrong district.

Rather than fix the problem of unequal funding for education due to the reliance on local property taxes, Adamowski will come to the rescue — although for select families only.

Mary Gallucci, Windham

 

LETTER: Unequal Education Is A Crime

I applaud The Courant for acknowledging why some families will lie about their address so their children can attend school in a different district [July 27, editorial, “The ‘Crime’ Of Local Education”]. The reason, as given in the editorial, is simple: “statewide educational inequality, with affluent suburban communities generally enjoying much better schools than poorer ones, including the cities.”

The solution, however, is not so simple. Although I applaud the work of the magnets, charters and Open Choice participants, those programs serve only to get a small percentage of students out of their inferior neighborhood schools. We pay lip service to making great strides, while we let thousands of children flounder in impoverished neighborhood schools.

So I cannot support The Courant’s proposal to expand the Open Choice program. It is a Band-Aid on a gut wound. Our children have waited too long already. Regionalization of school districts is the only answer.

Linda M. Poland, Newington

 

LETTER: Too Many School Districts The Problem

Letter writer Mary Gallucci [July 28, “Force Hometowns To Pay Tuition”] has correctly written that more equal funding for education is far better than forcing a town to pay tuition for any student who resides there but attends school elsewhere, but there is a much better, less costly, solution.

Connecticut’s worst-in-the-nation achievement gap is caused by our worst-in-the-nation economic segregation. The antidote to segregation is integration. The simple way to integrate our schools is to consolidate our school districts from more than 170 to 30 to 40.

Intricate solutions such as charter and magnet schools save the futures of a relative few, while so many others fail in school and in life, costing each of us to greater (urban children) or lesser (suburban taxpayers) extents. Fragmentation is our enemy. Our failure to break away from being the Land of Steady Habits in rapidly changing times is starting to ruin our state.

Dennis O’Brien, Windham
July 30, 2013