As Residence Fraud Plagues Local School Districts, Here’s What Officials Are Doing to Stop It

Image of private investigator Tina Blanchette on a surveillance mission via Avi Wolfman-Arent, WHYY.

School districts in the Philadelphia region are using private investigators to identify students who do not live within their borders, writes Avi Wolfman-Arent for WHYY.

Nearly all of the 63 school districts in the four counties surrounding Philadelphia now spend time and money to prove residence fraud. According to administrators, the enforcement is necessary so that the district’s legal residents receive the full benefit of their tax dollars.

“I would say in the last five years, there’s been an increase,” said Jeff Stein, head of the ELPS Private Detective Agency in West Chester. “You’re seeing more private investigators get involved in this.”

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With funds getting tighter, school districts are compelled to get tougher when it comes to the fraud. The practice is paying off, said Stein, as using detective services is much cheaper than educating a student for a year.

But according to Lee Ann Wentzel, the superintendent of the Ridley School District, which has paid private investigators $56,125 over the last three years, the main incentive is deterrence.

“The fact that we do check up serves as a deterrent to folks that don’t live here who want to play with the system,” said David Woods, superintendent of the Oxford Area School District.

Read more about residence fraud from WHYY by clicking here.

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