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Desperate Measures for Better Schools

What parents will do to get their children the best education possible is evidence that the status quo cannot continue much longer  ("Homeowners' Quest for the Best Schools," The Wall Street Journal, Jan. 26). Although the latest example involves affluent parents, it also includes low-income parents.

Those with the means will buy a house within a coveted school district's boundaries so that their children can legally enroll.  That often means paying hundreds of thousands of dollars more than nearby homes in less desirable school districts.  According to Realtor.com, homes with ratings of 9 or 10, which are the highest scores possible, are priced, on average, 77 percent higher than homes in nearby districts with scores of 6 or lower.

But low-income parents also are driven to get their children the best education possible.  They do it by using the address of a friend or relative whose residence is in the desired school district ("The Latest Crime Wave: Sending Your Child to a Better School," The Wall Street Journal, Oct. 1, 2011).  Although falsifying documents is illegal and results in arrest, the practice continues unabated.  This grand theft education is the result of a lack of alternatives. 

School officials employ officers whose primary job is verifying that parents actually live where they claim.  They conduct unannounced home visits.  Renters are often required to submit notarized affidavits from their landlords attesting that their leases are legitimate. The process is to protect legal residents from paying for students who are not legitimate enrollees.

When parents can't afford private schools and can't access vouchers, they will do just about anything to avoid enrolling their children in terrible public schools.  The solution is to improve all neighborhood schools.  But I question how many parents have the patience to wait until that happens.  They rightly demand a quality education now.

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The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner's Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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