Public School responsibility
Public school responsibility to the taxpayer
To the Editor:
Grosse Pointe Public Schools' administration and school board are always complaining about high class sizes, overcrowded buildings, inadequate facilities, etc. — all in the guise of pleading for more tax dollars to fund overbloated and unbalanced budgets.
As a taxpayer in the Grosse Pointes for many years, adequately funding our schools to educate our children is a serious obligation and legal responsibility that I accept while residing in this fine community. What isn't an obligation or a responsibility of any resident in this community is to finance the education of nonresidents.
Right now, there are many children attending the Grosse Pointe Public Schools who do not legally reside at any address within the district. These children are dropped off each and every school day at gas stations, street corners, behind community homes and in other "creative" ways so they can walk to our schools — pretending to "live in a house in the area."
Some parents even resort to purchasing an address from a conspiring community apartment dweller so that their child can attend our schools. Remember, these parents don't pay one cent toward the education of their children in our community. They pay no taxes in our community, they pay no tuition to our schools.
How obvious is this abuse of the community's educational tax dollars? Actually, the only ones who may not be aware of it are the taxpayers themselves. The school district's administrators know about it, the teachers know about it, even classmates know about it.
Next question: Why hasn't this abuse been stopped? It all has to do with "pupil count day." The school district turns a blind eye to all registered students (right now, there are no checks and balances to ensure the validity of registration information provided to the school district by a parent). And the reason for this is simple — to receive as much per pupil funding as possible, the school district's only concern is numbers — the more names on the class roles, the more money for the school district. After pupil count day, little if anything is done to remove the illegally registered students.
The most important question still remains: What do we do now to solve this problem and stop this drain on our educational taxpayer dollars? The solution is rather simple. The school district needs to receive proof of residency from each and every student. This proof should include a parent's or legal guardian's park pass or voter's registration card; tax bill or signed and dated rental agreement lease; and driver's license or similar document.
After the school district has received this documentation (and before the child is allowed to attend classes), a cross-check must be made with a voter, park pass, or tax bill list from the respective residing city. For any students who have been attending our schools illegally, a fee would be charged consisting of an amount prorated per day of attendance based on that year's pupil funding. And the students would be removed from the schools.
For a school district that's already top heavy in administration and administrative assistant deep, the personnel needed to do this cross-checking is readily available. The omission of this residency checking procedure by the district is very serious. It amounts to allowing the theft of educational tax dollars from the taxpayers — unheeded — and it must be stopped.
Let's look at the benefits that the school district would reap, not to mention the savings to the taxpayer. There would be smaller class sizes, lower cost for student supplies — the list goes on and on.
Perhaps, the benefits would show up in even more profound ways — ethically and morally. Shouldn't our schools be reflecting the values that this community holds dear while teaching them to our youngsters? Values like honesty, truth and responsibility are more than just words — they are learned by children — from role models — parents and other adults in their life, like educators.
I shudder to think what those nonresident students must think, and maybe worst, might be portraying as they see and become a party to the corruption of our laws and besmirch the educational regulations in this community.
What are the Grosse Pointe Schools teaching when residency remains unchallenged?
Dr. Janice Pemberton
National Education Consultant
Grosse Pointe Shores
Dr. Janice Pemberton
Grosse Pointe Shores
September 15, 2004