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Central School Superintendent Michael Faulk suggested Monday requiring parents to show more documentation than they do now to enroll in Central public schools, including evidence that renters don’t have homestead exempt property outside the city.
Faulk’s proposal would increase from four to seven the number of documents proving residence that parents would have to produce to enroll a student in Central.
Documents that would be required include homeowner’s or rental insurance, neither of which all homeowners or renters are required by law to carry.
The changes would take effect in the 2014-15 school year.
Enrollment in Central schools, about 4,400 students, has steadily increased since 2007 when the district broke away from the East Baton Rouge Parish school system.
A Central administrator said last year the school district catches about 80 ‘zone jumpers” each year, some who go as far as to rent apartments just so their children qualify to attend Central schools.
Faulk’s proposed changes would make doing that much harder by requiring certification from the tax assessor that a family doesn’t have a homestead exemption somewhere else — the exemption is reserved for the house in which the family actually lives.
Faulk said the Louisiana High School Athletic Association uses the document to determine player eligibility.
Faulk said district residents as well as School Board members have pushed for tougher rules to prevent out-of-district students from illegally enrolling in Central schools.
“We are ensuring that children attending school have a bona fide residence in the district,” Faulk told the Central School Board on Monday.
The board did not discuss Faulk’s proposed changes to the district’s “Evidence of Domicile” policy, but plans to debate and vote on the proposals at its Oct. 28 meeting.
Faulk said he is going to post the proposed changes on the school system’s website, http://centralcss.org/, and is open to suggestions for changes.
“I’m sure we’ll get some comments,” he said.
At least one board member already has questioned the proposed requirement that renters show proof of insurance, saying he may make that an option, rather than a requirement, Faulk said.
Faulk is also proposing limiting a perk that allows all school employees, even if they live outside of Central, to send their children to Central’s five schools.
Faulk said he would give that privilege only to “certified” employees, such as educators.
That would exclude children of support workers.
Children of employees already enrolled in Central would be grandfathered, he said.
Faulk also presented for discussion the idea of having all students register for school at Central Office, 10510 Joor Road, rather than at the school as they’ve traditionally done.
He said the issue there is not out-of-district students, but lack of consistency between schools in processing and verifying applications.
For instance, this past year he added staff to schools based on 200 students who said they planned to enroll, but only about 100 ultimately made the cut.
“We can’t continue to add staff based on inaccurate numbers,” he said.
Central requires that parents supply multiple documents to enroll their children, but not everyone possesses them.
The system requires parents to submit their most recent income tax returns even though not everyone makes enough money to file for income tax.
It also requires a voter registration card or a state-issued identification card such as a driver’s license. Faulk is suggesting requiring both.
Marjorie Esman, executive director of the Louisiana chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said it’s common for public schools to require multiple proof of residency, but Central’s proposals go too far.
“Children have the right to attend school whether their parents are registered to vote or not,” Esman said.
Esman suggested Central leaders give parents more choices in which documents they can submit as proof of residency. Although the current rule and the proposed revisions don’t list any exceptions, Faulk said he will work with families who can show they have a good reason for not having the required documentation.