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July 20, 2005

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Publication Date: Wednesday, July 20, 2005

EDITORIAL: Schools put up 'residents only' sign EDITORIAL: Schools put up 'residents only' sign (July 20, 2005)

The recent announcement that the local high school district will begin cracking down on nonresident students who attend school illegally makes a lot of sense, especially for local taxpayers.

After all, why should they pay taxes to educate a student who lives in the East Bay or somewhere else on the Peninsula? Schools have known for years about such students, but haven't done much to tackle the problem.

By acting now, the Sequoia Union High School District, which includes Menlo-Atherton and Woodside high schools, estimates that it could eliminate as many as 800 unauthorized students who now attend its schools.

As a basic-aid district, Sequoia receives a set amount of property tax money regardless of the number of students it enrolls. If Sequoia can eliminate 800 students, there is less demand for teachers and classrooms, and a potential saving of $2 million a year, according to the district.

To find those students, area high schools will invite every incoming freshman's parents to a special screening session at the district office in Redwood City, tentatively scheduled for August 4 for Menlo-Atherton students and August 11 for Woodside.

Many parents may dislike such a requirement for children who attended local elementary and middle schools for eight years. A suggestion by Sequoia district board member Olivia Martinez to exclude from the process families whose legitimacy is beyond doubt failed to win sufficient support at a recent board meeting.

For the sophomore and junior classes, each high school will conduct its own proof-of-residency procedures in October and November, with the unauthorized students expected to leave at the semester break in December. In a compassionate move, the district is allowing nonresident seniors to graduate with their classes.

During all this, we hope the district will recognize that nonresident students must be treated with respect and consideration. Sequoia should do everything it can to help students who lose their places in the district to quickly find another school and make a smooth transition in what will be a difficult time.

Sequoia has already promised that the credentials used to determine residency will not include immigration documents. That is a good decision, because such matters are outside the district's jurisdiction.

It would seem that charter school students could present a challenge for Sequoia when the district pays the school's operating expenses, as it will starting in September for Bayshore High-Tech High in Redwood City and probably starting in 2007 for Summit Prep, also in Redwood City. A charter school must accept all students until a class is full, at which point the school must hold a lottery. However, state law relieves a charter school's home district from paying for students who attend but live outside the district.

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