Council seeks report on enrollment fraud

Study to focus on students who live outside Balto. Co.

October 19, 2004|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

The Baltimore County Council narrowly passed a resolution last night asking the school system to report on its efforts to identify and weed out students who live outside the county and are fraudulently enrolled in the district's schools.

The council's 4-3 vote -- rare for a legislative body known for its public unanimity -- came after a passionate debate over whether the resolution amounted to what Councilman T. Bryan McIntire called using "a sledgehammer in order to drive a tack."

McIntire, a north county Republican, and Councilman Kevin Kamenetz, a Pikesville-Ruxton Democrat, said the issue was ripe for discussion, but added that they believed sending a letter was a better way to get information without creating a "false perception" that the legislative body has any control over school system policy.

"I believe they would have responded by letter, request or resolution. So what's the point of doing a resolution except to grandstand?" Kamenetz said after the vote. Kamenetz, McIntire and Councilmen Kenneth N. Oliver, a Randallstown Democrat voted against the resolution.

"It's a question of tact," Kamenetz added.

But Councilman Vincent J. Gardina, the Perry Hall-Towson Democrat who introduced the resolution during the council's work session last week, told fellow members last night that a simple request for information has not produced results in the past.

The council, he said, has the fiscal authority in the county and large numbers of out-of-county students in the school system would affect the budget.

"I realize we can't set the policy," he said. Still, he said, he believes that the issue is an "imminent concern that needs to be addressed."

He said that while parent concerns prompted him to introduce the resolution last week, he has since received calls from school system employees -- including pupil personnel workers, who investigate residency issues -- who say they are directed to selectively investigate residency issues.

"I was not aware of the scope of the problem until after the resolution was discussed," he said.

The resolution states that there is a community perception that an "inordinate number of ineligible non-resident students" are attending county schools. The resolution asks the school system to report back on its efforts to monitor fraudulent enrollment but provides no timeline for doing so.

A schools spokesman said yesterday afternoon that the system has a policy that allows for certain out-of-county students to attend county schools and works hard to identify those who are in the system fraudulently.

"I can't imagine we would be overlooking instances where students are enrolled in Baltimore County schools and should not have been," said schools spokesman Charles A. Herndon.

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