- The Washington Times - Friday, May 11, 2018

A new report from the reveals a quarter of students at the coveted Duke Ellington School of the Arts were enrolled illegally.

The city’s Office of State Superintendent for Education (OSSE) published an enrollment audit on Friday revealing 164 of the 570 students at Duke Ellington School of the Arts were enrolled illegally. The report details a pattern of falsified enrollment documents recording the students at D.C. residents when their families lived outside the state, resulting in an estimated $2 million in unpaid out-of-state tuition fees.

“Today’s report not only confirms the stunning depth of residency fraud at Duke Ellington, but also that the previous two chancellors had repeatedly lied to the Committee and the Council about how profound this problem is,” said D.C. Council member David Grosso, an at-large independent and head of the council’s education committee, in a statement Friday morning.

“I continue to grow frustrated with the lack of transparency from D.C. Public Schools and the Executive and this is the latest blow to their credibility,” he wrote.

OSSE found an additional 56 cases that are currently “inconclusive” and still under investigation. The report also totaled an additional 111 cases of residency fraud found at 50 other DCPS schools.

In a statement to parents on Friday evening originally obtained by WAMU, Tia Powell Harris, the head of the non-profit which operates Duke Ellington, wrote “Ellington has fallen victim to significant residency violations by some parents.”

The revelations drew ire from the public, who have witnessed a multitude of DCPS scandals over the last year from inflated graduation rates to the city’s own chancellor of education skirting the lottery rules for his own daughter.

“This residency problem suggests a culture of lax oversight and disregard for the law,” wrote Daniel Ridge, the head of ANC 6B, in a letter on Friday on behalf of his community who requested answers from the mayor.

“DC taxpayers footed the $170M bill to renovate this school that @dcpublicschools gives away to non-residents for free. I want my money back” tweeted one Capitol Hill parent, Jill Cashion on Friday evening. “How many actual DC students have they turned away from this audition-only school?”

Applications and wait listings for the city’s notoriously selective lottery system are up this year according to recent DCPS data. The school system reports that 14 percent more students applied for spots at schools through the lottery system this year, with 9,511 students were waitlisted for their desired spot. The data indicates that 74 percent of those students were waitlisted at as many as three different schools.

An April report on residency fraud from the D.C. government’s Inspector General Daniel W. Lucas found 85 cases of residency fraud between 2014, 2015, and 2016. Mr. Lucas found that OSSE failed to refer 46 of those cases to the Attorney General’s office for prosecution and overall the D.C. school system was still owed $550,764 in unpaid out-of-state tuition fees.

Mayor Muriel Bowser added $300,000 to the city’s 2019 budget to combat residency fraud after OSSE admitted in a D.C. Council hearing they only employed one full-time residency fraud investigator.

“The news comes at the heels of growing concern about residency fraud over the past months. Earlier this week the D.C. Attorney General sued a husband and wife who work at the Metropolitan police department $539,000 after discovering they illegally enrolled 7 kids in DCPS despite living in Prince George’s County, Md, reported The Washington Post.”

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