June 20, 2018
Each student attending a D.C. Public School or D.C. Public Charter School who does not have a parent or guardian who lives in the District must pay out-of-state tuition as required by District law. Requiring non-residents to pay out-of-state tuition ensures that children who live in the District do not lose out on the educational benefits to which they are entitled. Non-residents who do not pay the required tuition may face liability for repayment, additional damages, and penalties.
Recently, parents of students attending Duke Ellington School of the Arts received non-residency notices from the Office of the State Superintendent of Education.
Here are some Frequently Asked Questions about how non-resident tuition enforcement works:
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the role of the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE)?
OSSE is the agency primarily responsible for identifying non-resident families who should be paying out-of-state tuition, and then collecting that tuition. OSSE can investigate residency by taking steps such as reviewing enrollment forms, student files maintained by the school, and publicly available records to determine residency. OSSE then sends a letter to those who are suspected to be non-residents identifying the next steps of OSSE’s investigation. If a parent cannot confirm District residency and does not resolve the issues of non-residency and payment of non-resident tuition with OSSE, or if OSSE believes there could be fraud, OSSE can refer that case to the Office of the Attorney General for further investigation and potential civil action.
What are the options for parents who receive a non-residency notice from OSSE?
OSSE notifies families suspected of being non-residents with a notice letter, in writing by regular and certified mail at their address on record, of their right to administrative review. These families have 10 business days from the date of the letter to respond in one of two options:
- Accept the non-residency finding and make arrangements to pay the non-resident tuition owed for the 2017-18 school year; or
- Contest the non-residency finding through an administrative review before the Office of Administrative Hearings.
If a family fails to respond to the notice within 10 business days from the date of the letter, OSSE’s non-residency finding will become a final agency decision, the family will owe tuition for the 2017-18 school year, and OAG may file a lawsuit under the False Claims Act or other theories.
What can Duke Ellington parents that have recently received non-residency notices from OSSE do next?
Some parents of Duke Ellington students may have received two letters stating that: (1) their child is not a District resident; (2) their cases have been referred to OAG; and (3) advising them of next steps. These notices have been withdrawn by OSSE. However, parents may receive another non-residency notice, which will identify the next steps for that family.
In preparation for additional instructions from OSSE, here are some steps parents can take proactively:
- Organize and gather documents to establish District residency: If a Duke Ellington parent is concerned they might receive another non-residency notice or is worried they might be the subject of a non-residency investigation by OSSE, they can begin to gather document(s) needed to establish District residency, or additional information OSSE requests, or make arrangements to pay non-resident tuition owed. While OSSE will only demand a tuition payment for the current school year, OAG may pursue legal action for non-payment for previous school years, so arranging to pay the full amount owed is useful in fully resolving a non-residency finding.
- Follow OSSE’s instructions: If a Duke Ellington parent receives another non-residency notice, they should follow the verification or payment options outlined by OSSE in the letter.
What is the role of the Office of the Attorney General (OAG)?
When a non-resident case is referred by OSSE, OAG independently investigates the case to determine whether there is fraud and what next steps are appropriate. OAG’s investigation may cover school years other than the current school year or additional students enrolled in other years. If OAG determines that there is no tuition fraud, no further action is taken. If OAG determines that tuition fraud has occurred, it can file a lawsuit under the False Claims Act or other theories.
What are the consequences if OAG files a lawsuit against parents suspected of non-resident tuition fraud?
If convicted of non-resident tuition fraud, a person could be liable for the amount of tuition owed, which may be tripled as damages under the False Claims Act, and penalties. Since OAG began civil enforcement of tuition fraud claims in 2012, it has obtained 13 monetary judgments and 15 out-of-court settlements totaling approximately $1.6 million. Most of these funds are being collected through periodic payments or garnishments of wages.