School officials look to AG for direction
Arizona Daily Star
Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne accused my office
of refusing to take action on an allegation that children living in Mexico are
being educated in Arizona schools. The Pima County School Superintendent's
Office did no such thing.
The claim of residency fraud was made two weeks ago after an
investigation conducted by the state school superintendent's office. No one in
my office has seen the report of this investigation. We have not seen proof of
what, if any, wrongdoing has been discovered.
What I have seen is a press release in which a videotape of
children boarding a bus and an interview with an unnamed employee of a trailer
park are mentioned. The state school superintendent's office apparently believes
this is enough evidence to provoke a county school superintendent's office to
undertake home surveillance of students.
My office absolutely does take action whenever we are presented
with credible evidence of specific instances of illegalities. But the allegation
being repeatedly asserted now concerns the residency of young children. This
raises a difficult point.
Arizona law defines who is a resident of a school district but is
silent on who has the authority to investigate and enforce issues related to
school district residency.
In the absence of clear lines of authority, I requested that the
issue be referred to the Attorney General's Office for clarification and
My office has defined powers and duties set out in statute. Law
enforcement is not among those. If the attorney general opines that my office
should be exercising a specific action in this situation, then I will direct my
office to do so.
Without that expressed direction, I am unwilling to have my
office assume a duty that it has no authority to execute.
The issue here is residency, not citizenship. The U.S. Supreme
Court has said that citizenship is irrelevant when determining whether or not a
child may attend a public school. The superintendent of public instruction knows
I assumed, incorrectly, that the state superintendent would not
ask my office to provide information about the citizenship of a group of
That is, of course, information that would be illegal for any
school district to collect. I was surprised when the state superintendent did
indeed make such an inappropriate request. Surely, the superintendent of public
instruction does not intend to engage in political grandstanding at the cost of
implementing poor public policy.
Due process and thoughtful action do not always grab the public's
attention. Exaggeration and bluster get noticed but the aftermath can be costly
when governmental entities overstep their authority and violate individuals'
Nonresidents of Arizona who are attending school here without
paying tuition are breaking the law.
I would never condone this. But I do not intend to deny any child
a public education based on anything less than an unequivocal finding of fraud.
I know those who elected me expect nothing less.