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Ask the Lawyer

Education Law

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Q: We planned on buying a home in a particular school district, but the sale fell through and we are still in our old home. Our children have already started school in the new school district, and I have heard that we can be billed by the school for having non-resident children attending school in the district. Is this accurate, and what, if anything, can be done?

A: There are many reasons why children end up attending school in a district where they do not live, which, depending on the circumstances, could result in a school district presenting you with a hefty bill (sometimes in the five to six figures) seeking reimbursement of each non-resident child’s tuition for the period in which they were not district residents. 

In these tough financial times, residency has become very serious issue for school districts, which do not want to (and do not have to) pay the cost of educating children who are not residents of the school district. If you are a parent sending your child to a school district where you do not live, you should know what the law is regarding residency and school districts.

Education Law §3202(1) provides, in relevant part:

A person over five and under twenty-one years of age who has not received a high school diploma is entitled to attend the public schools maintained in the district in which such person resides without the payment of tuition.

The purpose of this statute is to limit the obligation of school districts to provide tuition-free education and related services to students whose parents or legal guardians reside within the school district.

A child’s residence is presumed to be that of his parents or legal guardians. Thus, if the parents or a child’s legal guardian live within a school district, then that is the school district in which the child is entitled to attend school tuition-free. “Residence” is based upon an individual’s physical presence as an inhabitant within the district and upon the individual’s intention to remain.

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