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Watchful waiting on ‘school shopping’

One ongoing fear in popular suburban school districts is that parents of students from less well-off areas will try to sneak their kids in.

Those extra students would raise the tax burden on residents in a high-spending areas like Evanston, which spends nearly $12,700 on each elementary school student.

One ongoing fear in popular suburban school districts is that parents of students from less well-off areas will try to sneak their kids in.

Those extra students would raise the tax burden on residents in a high-spending areas like Evanston, which spends nearly $12,700 on each elementary school student.

That's led districts to impose a variety of strategies to prevent out-of-district students from attending, including requiring parents to register their students in person every year and provide proof of residency.

Evanston/Skokie School District 65 required every-year signups for a half-dozen years, until last fall.

Whenever the residency proof parents provide isn't deemed sufficient by the officials, the parents have to sign an affadavit claiming residency and then district staff investigate whether the parent's claim can be substantiated, sometimes including making home visits.

Over the past two years nearly 800 parents had to file such affadavits, and a total of 15 were denied.

After various appeals, the district's Chief Information Officer Paul Brinson said, only about one student per year was required to leave the system.

The school board decided to cut back on the registration requirements last fall — only requiring parents to register students when they were new to the district and when they entered kindergarten, third and sixth grades.

Brinson says it's too early to know for sure whether the relaxation of the registration rules will lead to an increase in out-of-district students.

But he told the board's finance committee this week that because most kids have siblings, more than half the families in the district had to register last fall, and the longest any family could go without having to prove residency is three years.

With more than 5,700 students in the district, and only one student per year excluded under the old system, Brinson thinks the more relaxed approach is looking like a good decision so far — considering the reduction in hassles for parents and in work for school employees handling the registrations.

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