By Barbara Jones, Staff Writer |dAILY nEWS | http://bit.ly/10m7UGK
3/04/2013 08:23:56 PM PST :: Los Angeles Unified will let schools use public records to verify student addresses after a high-performing charter in Studio City complained that scores of parents from outside the neighborhood committed fraud to get their kids admitted, officials said Monday.
Administrators at Carpenter Community Charter believe that as many as 120 of the school's 1,000 students enrolled using addresses that falsely show they live in the area. These kids have pushed the school to capacity, and officials say there may not be enough room for all the local youngsters who want to enroll in kindergarten next year.
After contentious meetings with parents worried about an enrollment lottery, district officials beefed up the policy so Carpenter and other schools can use electronic databases to search property records and reject incoming students who don't belong.
"Resident students should have a seat at their resident school," Carpenter Principal Joe Martinez said. "If someone says they're living in our area, we can use public records to find out if that's the case."
Officials say it's likely that parents have gamed the system to get their students into other high-performing schools like Carpenter, which converted to a charter in 2010-11, but remains affiliated with the district.
And while the new policy helps these charter schools slow a crush of incoming students, school board member Tamar Galatzan said there are several other thorny issues to be resolved.
She plans to meet this week with top administrators to discuss what to do about students who have been attending a school for years using a false address - should they be allowed to finish or forced to transfer to their actual neighborhood school?
Charters also find themselves struggling under a state law which says that students who legitimately enroll in their neighborhood charter can continue attending that school if they move to a different area.
"If that child is legally in attendance, you can't kick them out," Galatzan said.
When enrolling their children, parents must provide proof of residence - typically a utility or property tax bill or a lease agreement.
Martinez suspects that some Carpenter parents got around this rule by submitting falsified documents, like photocopies with the addresses altered. As a result, he said, the school will accept only originals of the enrollment documents.
Although the problem was spotlighted at Carpenter, Deputy Superintendent Michelle King said public-records searches can be conducted by any school that suspects students have been fraudulently enrolled.
Any student found to be living outside the Carpenter boundary will be allowed to finish out the semester, but will have to enroll next fall in their actual neighborhood school, King said.
Carpenter has long had the reputation as a high-performing school, but it became even more popular after it converted to an affiliated charter in 2010-11.
Its Academic Performance Index has risen to 941 - well above the district's target score of 800 - and it offers every student small classes, dance and arts programs, science and media labs and an innovative curriculum for math and English.
It's not surprising, parent Julie Stein said, that families want to move into the area located east of Laurel Canyon and south of Ventura Boulevard.
"There's a premium for living in this area," she said. "There are families of five living in an apartment so their kids can attend Carpenter.
"The possibility of having their youngest not being able to come here just isn't fair."
Stein, who is a parent volunteer, said this year's kindergarten class ballooned this year, with 210 enrolling when they had expected about 150.
That prompted the school to cap enrollment and raised the possibility of an attendance lottery for 2013-14. Kids who didn't win a seat in the lottery would have had to go to another campus nearby - good schools, but not Carpenter.
"One of the core values of our school is honesty," said Stein, who has a third-grader at Carpenter. "I would like to think that everyone at Carpenter shared that value.
"It is disappointing and polarizing to learn that families were dishonest regarding admission. It wears away at the trust we have built in the school community.
This is a case of Carpenter's decade’s-long successful outreach to increase enrollment and save their program getting in their own way. No good deed goes unpunished.
Recycling my previous comments, see this.