Update: Ellington School Residency Scandal

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On Feb. 28, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education reported that about 100 of the roughly 500 enrolled students at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts actually lived outside the District, but were avoiding the annual $12,000 out-of-district tuition by using the District addresses of relatives or temporary residences.

The OSSE promised to look into it. Now, the prognosis is not good.

The OSSE found that, since 2013, education officials have investigated and referred 182 residency fraud cases to the D.C. attorney general’s office. But just 39 — fewer than 1 in 4 — led to settlements or enforcement actions.

During the same period, the attorney general’s office collected approximately 20 percent of the $1.5 million that families were required to pay as the result of settlements or court judgments. The Washington Post reported on April 16 that there were many instances of DC Public Schools employees committing the fraud.

Robert Marus, spokesperson for Attorney General Karl A. Racine,,gave several explanations for the lack of collected fines. “Not every referral from the school system merits enforcement. The facts of each case are reviewed to determine if further action is worth using OSSE’s limited resources to recover,” Marus said. Some parents who werefound liable agreed to pay in installments over several years.

But the main reason is probably that the agency employs just one full-time residency investigator for a school system of 92,000 students. In late 2017, that investigator was handling more than 600 cases. Nevertheless, in February of this year, the OSSE promised to review all the applications and stated residences of Ellington High School students and to try any cases of enrollment fraud.

Students at the stunningly refurbished school at 35thand R Streets, originally built as Western High School, are admitted through an audition and interview process into one of eight specialty arts majors. But since its significantly delayed reopening last fall, the school has struggled to reach its goal of about 600 students. D.C.students are given priority for scholarships and admission.

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