- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 16, 2004

The chief executive officer of Prince George’s County Public Schools yesterday said he will initiate an effort with his counterparts in Montgomery County and the District to stop students from illegally enrolling in their schools.

“I think you have to focus on cooperating with the adjoining school systems to see how we can better improve our schools, so that people won’t want to leave,” schools chief Andre J. Hornsby told The Washington Times.

Citing reports about the problem in The Times, Mr. Hornsby said school officials usually do not catch border crossers unless the students speak up.

“The majority of the time, if children are children, they’ll tell you where they live,” he said. “They’ll just tell you, ‘I don’t live there, I live over there now.’”

The Times yesterday reported that D.C. public school officials said at least 55 students from Montgomery and Prince George’s counties illegally enroll in city schools each year.

Earlier this month, The Times reported that Montgomery County officials had begun requiring students to prove their residency and that Prince George’s County officials were considering doing the same.

Prince George’s officials said they do not know how many of their 135,000 students are enrolled illegally.

Each border crosser costs Montgomery County $10,000, Prince George’s County $7,500 and the District $7,000 in tuition, officials said.

Mr. Hornsby said he will initiate a series of consultative “conversations” at monthly meetings of the Washington Area School Study Council, a forum of area superintendents.

“[Montgomery schools Superintendent] Jerry [D. Weast] and I are in the same state,” Mr. Hornsby said. “We go to meetings monthly, we talk regularly. If I improve my schools and he improves his, our kids aren’t going anywhere. It’s just that simple.”

Montgomery and D.C. school officials said they are open to cooperating with Mr. Hornsby and with each other.

“Dr. Weast and other members of the Washington Area Study Council meet regularly to discuss issues shared in common by local jurisdictions,” said Katherine D. Harrison, spokeswoman for Montgomery County. “That council would certainly be an excellent forum to address residency concerns.”

“I would be very interested in cooperation, but I don’t know how it would work,” said D.C. school board member Tommy Wells. “I haven’t seen a plan or proposal, and as a board member, I would take my cue from the superintendent.”

Mr. Weast and interim D.C. schools Superintendent Elfreda Massie were unavailable for comment.

Mr. Hornsby said the focus will be on boosting test scores at underperforming schools to make border crossing less attractive to parents seeking better schools for their children.

“The bottom line is, America is America, public education is the backbone of America, and we have to educate all of our children,” he said. “I’m quite sure that every school system finds children who probably don’t belong there.”

Montgomery officials have said that as many as 2,000 — nearly 20 percent — of the county’s 11,000 eighth-graders whose parents missed a June 4 deadline to prove their residency will be barred from starting high school this fall.

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