3.

More and more, concerns about out-of-district enrollment are injected into any discussion about Berkeley’s schools. Anecdotal reports of abuse abound, yet BUSD has not come forth and shared any data on fraudulent or out-of-district enrollment. What can you do as a Board member to promote transparency on how BUSD is addressing this issue so that it does not derail all other discussions of importance?

Answers: 
Ty Alper

I agree there has not been a transparent public analysis of this issue. To promote transparency, the Board can (and should) direct staff to prepare such an analysis, including the pros and cons of options for addressing fraudulent enrollment. Once there is a data-driven analysis, there will be accurate information to share and then meaningful decisions can be made with community input. (Policy should not be made on the basis of anecdotal reports.)

Josh Daniels

The Board has discussed the issue of out-of-district enrollment on a number of occasions, most recently in November 2013. We will also be discussing it as part of our deliberations to determine how best to respond to the increasing enrollment in our elementary schools. For instance, at the discussion on enrollment on October 8, the Superintendent stated that he has increased the frequency of bed checks and announced that he will be bringing a new policy to the School Board that would require each student to reenroll between elementary school and middle school and between middle school and high school. I also encourage anyone interested to read the BerkeleySide article by Mary Flaherty on this issue (http://www.berkeleyside.com/2014/04/08/illegal-enrollment-is-boon-and-burden-to-berkeley-schools/).

Norma J F Harrison

This problem has persisted as long as I’ve been involved with the schools – my daughter started here in 1978. The problems the school system encounters are caused by the system we live in, insoluble until we work to change it. Working to change it actually will change the behavior of all who concern themselves with justice, with high quality living for us all.

Karen Hemphill

Data on out of district transfers was provided at a recent Board meeting and is available to the public. Fewer transfers have been awarded – most are for the children of District teachers/staff. Fraudulent enrollment data by definition can be estimated but not collected and is hard to determine due to the numbers of our students with split parental custody; that reside with a caretaker that legally does not have to be a guardian according to State law; are fairly transient; and/or are homeless (which includes students whose families are “doubling up” and/or those that “couch-surf” within an extended family). The Board has already directed staff to increase home visits as an equitable method of determining residency and to review the enrollment status of students with serious disciplinary infractions. In addition, the Board has publicly stated that a review of the District’s enrollment practices will be conducted as part of current Board discussions (publicly accessible by attending or viewing Board meetings) over enrollment issues in the District. I have already publicly stated that I favor having students separately enroll for elementary, middle, and high school and to institute (and publicize!) a program of random home visits as part of the enrollment process and am open to hearing other equitable measures to address this issue.

Julie Sinai

Earlier this month, recognizing the increasing importance of this issue as our enrollment grows; I requested staff provide me with data about out-of-district (known as Inter-District) Transfers. Being new to the Board, I learned that reports on Inter-District Transfers are presented to the School Board toward the end of each calendar year (November- December). Upon seeing the data for the past three years, I publicly reported the numbers during my Board Comments at the October 10 School Board meeting. I’ve attached a quick summary that I used for communicating with parents.

Inter-District Transfers have declined each year, going from a total district wide number of 645 in 2011-12 to 599 in 2013-14. In 2011, 77 of the 645 were new students and in 2013, 46 of the 599 were new students. Overwhelmingly, the new students are children of BUSD employees: 55 of the 77 in 2011; 20 of the 42 in 2012; and, 30 of the 46 in 2013. The 2014-15 report will be presented to the Board in November or December of this year. Included in these reports are the numbers of Berkeley students securing Inter-District permits to attend a school outside of BUSD. Interestingly, that number is also declining each year from 266 in 2011 to 110 in 2013. These numbers do not reflect the number of BUSD students who may not officially live in Berkeley. Getting an accurate number and a clear picture of true residency for these students is extremely difficult.
The District needs to get a handle on enrollment, both legitimate and fraudulent so that we can accurately project our instructional and facility needs. I will advocate for the Board to consider a policy to change the re-verification of residency during a student’s educational experience in the District. Right now, when a student has been accepted into the District, their residency status is rarely reviewed again. I support amending the District’s enrollment policy to include the verification of residency at key transition points – specifically when a student is promoted from elementary to middle, and middle to high school. And of course any new student, regardless of grade, has to have their residency verified.

All parents and guardians want the best education for their children. It is important to note that families in BUSD using a false address represent all walks of life. Some families have gone to extreme lengths to get into Berkeley schools – those with resources have been known to rent an apartment they don’t actually live in, others use addresses of friends or family. Additionally, there are Berkeley families seeking an alternative educational experience for their student and see neighboring districts as options. I hear anecdotal stories of our students trying to get into Piedmont, Acalanes, El Cerrito and Albany.
This is a discussion that needs to take place regionally – with WCCUSD, Albany, Emery, Oakland and Piedmont, specifically. The cities in the East Bay have porous borders. Our families are highly mobile, often living in and out of Berkeley over the course of their children’s schooling. For these reasons, I support having our Superintendent engage our neighboring superintendents and the Alameda County Office of Education in the development of a coordinated regional approach to an effective policy for student enrollment, residency verification and Inter-District Transfers.