Berkeley is just one of many school districts that hires enrollment fraud investigators to follow up on tips and complaints. School district fraud investigations have increased, said James Mesis, one such investigator who began offering his services in 2000 and now works with more than 200 school districts across the country. Washington DC employs its own enrollment investigator, said DC schools spokesman Fred Lewis. Like other investigators, he will show up at kids’ listed home addresses and go inside, visiting their bedrooms to see if it looks like the child actually lives and sleeps there.
“Half the time the kids are the first ones who blurt out where they live,” Mesis said. Parents will typically deny they’re enrolling their children illegally until investigators show them videos and pictures of their kids going home to out-of-district residences, he said.
An increase in complaints from District residents led the D.C. City Council to focus on illegal enrollment in recent years, Lewis said. When parents who live in and pay taxes for local schools can’t get their kids into coveted athletics or preschool programs, and see people with out-of-state licenses queuing up at parent pickup, they get crabby. And they have a right to. It’s not just about the taxes, but also crowding, because every out-of-district child takes a spot that could have gone to a child who was legally entitled to it, Lewis said.
How many illegal immigrants are taking some of those spots? Maybe they mostly don’t live near the wealthy DC residents zoned into better schools, so that’s why parents only complain about illegal citizens instead of illegal noncitizens. Given the odds, however, doing that seems a significant cognitive dissonance.