Who's Cheating Who?

The Grosse Pointe residency saga continues

Apparently there is a limit to Grosse Pointe's crackdown on nonresident students. This week, the Grosse Pointe school board voted down a proposal to require all students to submit a notarized affidavit of residency every year.

According to MLive, board member Brendan Walsh said that the proposed requirement would discourage people from moving into the district. He said:

What message are we sending to the community? ...we're telling them, 'you better be the right kind of resident.'

Walsh has a point. Though commenters have suggested that the district's unhealthy focus on residency is an issue of money, statewide choice programs would address the majority of funding issues

Diane Karabetsos, a resident and former candidate for school board, said at the school board meeting she suspects that hundreds of Grosse Pointe students don't really live in the district, and that "they’re actually cheating the taxpayers who live here.”

Actually, state taxpayers and residents of other school districts should be concerned that Grosse Pointe is cheating them. The district could be in a position to cheat state taxpayers when it starts collecting penalty tuition, and likely already has cheated state and local taxpayers by kicking out students for whom it has collected state funding.

Isn't penalty tuition double-dipping?
Grosse Pointe receives more than $6,700 for each student from state taxpayers. The district gets this money for each student counted on count day — regardless of whether the student lives in the district. This tally does not include federal revenues or other state appropriations Grosse Pointe receives. All told, the district gets about $9,000 per student from state and federal sources.

It is true that Grosse Pointe receives about $4,000 per student from local sources of revenue. If the district were only concerned about money, it could charge students discovered to be nonresidents that amount to make up the difference. Instead, the district's penalty tuition amount was set at $13,038 per year.

If Grosse Pointe charges a student the full penalty at the end of the year, what happens to the money the district received from the state to educate that student? If Grosse Pointe does not return the money, it will have "cheated" state taxpayers.

Doesn't Grosse Pointe owe taxpayers money for the students it has kicked out?
In some years, Grosse Pointe has kicked out more than 60 students from its schools for being nonresidents. Due to the way the state paid districts, it is likely that the district received nearly the full amount of foundation allowance money for those students.

Consider the following example: Suppose Grosse Pointe kicked out a nonresident student one-third of the way through the school year. The student would have been present on count day, and the district would have received 90 percent of state funding associated with that student. The district could argue that it is entitled to one-third of that money.

But the district certainly is not entitled to the remainder. After all, the student it kicked out has to attend another school for the rest of the year. If the student transferred to another public school district, Grosse Pointe owes that district the remaining two thirds. If the student transferred to a private school, Grosse Pointe should pay the remainder back to the state.

The point of this post is not to suggest that Grosse Pointe write the state and nearby school districts a check; rather, it is to point out that Grosse Pointe residents’ claims of "cheating local taxpayers" are a stretch.

If Grosse Pointe residents want an expensive, exclusive school, they should send their children to expensive, exclusive private schools — not a public school district.