Responding to bogus residency rumors — Brendan Walsh, Public Education Researcher and Advocate

Responding to bogus residency rumors

In response to more lies being distributed by my opponent’s supporters, I want to set the record straight on “The Residency Question” or what is officially Enrollment Eligibility.

My political adversaries are presenting you with a false proposition.  They wrongly argue that because I do not support requiring every parent in this district to re-register their students every August that I do not support strict enforcement of our residency policy.  This is not only flawed logic, it is an outright lie – consistent with what I have seen as their campaign gets more and more desperate. 

Let me be clear. I support 100% the full enforcement of the district’s Enrollment Eligibility policy.  I believe that annual district-wide full re-registration of all families is NOT an effective means of enforcing the policy.  Even leaving aside the cost factor of doing so, I believe our current model is more effective in enforcing the policy.  

We have an employee, titled Dean of Students, whose primary function is to enforce our enrollment eligibility policy.  He does this every day all year.  He’s directly involved in the registration process. He performs hundreds of investigations year round.  He is prompted to do so by (the very few) “tips” we get telling us of potential violations, but mainly by doing lease/rental re-verifications, returned mail, or other factors.  Compare this to a one-time annual event that freezes in time (in August) the circumstances that qualify a student as enrollment eligible. 

Think about it.  The majority of cases we investigate are much more intricate and dynamic than any one-time registration event ever could be.  How many people know that 18% of our student population live in leased or rented homes?  Right now we have 877 leases for families of students in the district.  Ask yourself, would we even know this number if we weren’t managing this issue?  59 of these leases are on a month-to-month basis.  Ask yourself, how would a one-time annual registration event help deal with this issue?

Every year we re-verify hundreds of these leases, led by the efforts of our Dean of Students.  Ask yourself, does every lease terminate in August and begin in September?  Of course not.  This is yet another reason why a one-time annual district-wide re-registration event is not the most effective means of enforcing this policy.

What most people do not understand is that there are many more circumstances that under STATE AND FEDERAL LAW allow students to legally attend our schools:

1. A student who lives with one or both parents or legal guardians in a home they own or rent in the district. In this scenario, the residence must be the parent/guardian’s primary legal domicile and they must actually live in the home. Merely owning or renting a home in the district, but not living in it, is not sufficient to establish residency.

2. A student who does not live in the district, but whose parent or full legal guardian lives within the district (even if the student does not live with that parent or guardian).

3. A student who lives with a parent or full legal guardian who lives with another person in the district. In other words, the parent or legal guardian does not own or rent his or her residence, but lives with another, and the student lives with them.

4. A student whose parent or legal guardian, residing outside the district, is unable to provide a home for the student and who places the student in the home of a relative of the student within the district for the purposes of securing a suitable home for the child and not for an educational purpose.

5. A student who is placed in a licensed foster home within the district boundaries.

6. A student who is homeless. (FYI, how many people know we have 11 homeless students?) (Edit:  In response to FURTHER rumors, only students who had already established enrollment eligibility in a school district and then become homeless, which is verified, can enroll in the district.  Homeless students cannot attend wherever they choose.)

7. A non-resident student attending special education programs hosted by GPPSS under Public Act 18. (Mainly for Special Education purposes.)

Review carefully this list.  Think about the economic and social turmoil so many families are experiencing today – that happens year round – that creates these situations.  How effective would a one-time annual event be in dealing with the intricasies of these issues?  Not at all.  It’s like using a hammer to drive in a screw.  It’s the wrong tool for the job.

Here is a summary of our investigations since 2005-6:

School Year # of Students Investigated # of Student Exclusion # of Residency Tips
2005-06 112 26  
2006-07 182 49  
2007-08 116 47  
2008-09 278 (504 of 727 leases reverified) 66 17
2009-10 351 60 15
TOTAL 1,039 248 32

Ask yourself, would we keep such intricate records if we were not aggressively enforcing this policy?  Ask youself, how was it that in 2005-6, the very year that we DID do a full re-registration, we excluded another 26 students?  In the ensuing years, these exclusions took place throughout the year.  A one time annual event would not have solved this problem.  Notice how the number of annual investigations has increased every year.  Ask yourself, does this support the theory that we are “looking the other way”?

I have watched this issue evolve for 6 years.  I know it well enough to know that it will be for us, like it is for any high performance district bordering low performance districts, an ongoing challenge.  Many other districts like us have similar challenges.  In fact, Birmingham Schools and GPPSS trade information and ideas frequently. 

But my first question is always this:  What is it people are reacting to be so quick to assume that we have a wide-spread problem with ineligible students?  If it is so easily discernible to the naked eye then solving the problem should be easy, right? 

If it were so obvious, wouldn’t our tip line (313-432-3083) be ringing off the hook?  Last year, we got just 15 “tips” yet we investigated 351 students.  That tells you we have been aggressive on this issue. 

Ask yourself, why is my opponent and her supporters insistent on spreading lies and half-truths about my positions?

Ask yourself, if she’s willing to lie to you now how often will you be lied to if she is your elected representative?


  1. Dan Roeske says:

    In personal conversations with you, I know that you and the Board take Enrollment Eligibility serious. I personally would rather not have a district-wide full re-registration – it takes time, yearly duplication of efforts and is not effective over the school year. The “lies” being spread about by the other candidate are acts of a person who has nothing concrete to offer in the campaign. Brendan, you have the votes of this household.

  2. Christie says:

    Thank you for this clear message that I can copy and paste as a reply to the e-mails that I am getting with wrong information.


  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by GPToday, Brendan Walsh. Brendan Walsh said: Many of you have sent me emails created by my opponents supporters telling more lies about me. Sadly we saw this… [...]

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