Where We Live

The time has come, according to my kids’ principal, to play the residency verification game again.

This year will be the third time playing this game, and I’m no more excited than I was the first two times.

He doesn’t just want me to tell him where I live. He also doesn’t want me to affirm what they have in their files. No, he wants me to prove it over and over and over and — I kid you not — over again.

I can only do so after I’ve completed the online enrollment, for which I’ve already supplied my address, and I must provide certain documents — one from Category A, which offers seven option, and three more from Category B, which includes thirteen options.

I also must present all of these original and complete documents in person at one of six different times over the next eleven days. If I don’t, my kids’ registrations will be “pulled,” and their courses will be “removed.”

Parents, in other words, must prove that their kids are eligible for this public good for which they are paying. Although the process, I admit, is relatively painless, it is a process, and the burden of proof is placed upon parents.

Never mind that the federal, state, county, and local governments know where I live. Forget that big businesses and relentless marketers know not only that but also what I’ve purchased and prefer and even, in some cases, where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing.

In case I’m concerned about revealing too much information, I am assured that their principal only wants my name, address, and a date on these documents. I will be supplied with markers, I’m informed, to redact other information, such as mortgage terms or retirement contributions.

The purpose, their principal indicates, is to ensure only those who live within the boundaries of the district have access to the “educational services” that are “funded by District tax dollars.”

While I might have a somewhat different perspective on these services, I nonetheless would concur, perhaps less enthusiastically, with the need for fiscal responsibility. At the same time, I would argue that this responsibility ought not to be the obligation of those who supply funds that, among other uses, support his salary.

All Illinois residents benefit when our children are educated, and educational funding needs to be more equitable and fair. Until it is, the more than 860 school districts in Illinois will need to manage their money to ensure their administrators are fulfilling their responsibilities to their residents.

And I can only count the years until I no longer must collect specific documents and stand in lines to prove, year after year, that I actually live where I live, and have lived for years.

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