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NPS vigilance turns up six non-resident students

Norwalk Public Schools Chief of School Operations Frank Costanzo delivers an update Tuesday on the new residency policy.

Norwalk Public Schools Chief of School Operations Frank Costanzo delivers an update Tuesday on the new residency policy.

NORWALK, Conn. — There are six Norwalk Public Schools students who don’t live in Norwalk, Chief of School Operations Frank Costanzo said Tuesday.

All of them come from families who have been enrolled here for years; of the 80 new students, all of them have been found to be legitimate Norwalk residents, he said.

Costanzo’s update to the Board of Education on the new residency policy, enacted with the beginning of the school year, included recommendations for the future – keeping tabs of homeless children being key on the list, and a possible collaboration with Planning and Zoning also being mentioned.

The BoE approved its new residency policy in August. There’s never been a system for verifying student residency in Norwalk, Costanzo said, mentioning that a private investigator is part of the process.

Families register at their schools and are referred to Central Office if there’s an issue, he said.

“We don’t have a new registration family identified as non-residents, believe it or not. The non-resident families that have been identified through our system this year have been currently enrolled students in Norwalk Public Schools,” Costanzo said.

Of the 80 new students, 95 percent are English Language Learners; most come from Guatemala or Hondorus, he said.

BoE member Erik Anderson sought to clarify: No one is being asked to provide their immigration status.

“They can all prove that they live here,” Costanzo said. “Whether they are living here legally or illegally is not for us to determine but we can determine that they are living here most of the time.”

Of the six students determined not to live in Norwalk, three are on the verge of being disenrolled. If their families don’t provide paperwork to prove residency or file an appeal by March 24, they will no longer be Norwalk students, Costanzo said.

The other three students were found to be homeless because of a fire that happened earlier this year, he said.

Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Steven Adamowski mentioned that they are living in a Bridgeport homeless shelter.

They are documented long-term Norwalk residents but if they don’t find a new home here by the end of the school year they will have to move on, Costanzo said, mentioning the McKinney-Vento Education of Homeless Children and Youth Assistance Act, a federal law that applies to this situation.

Adamowski said they’re considered to be living in transitional housing. If they don’t move back to Norwalk, their new school system will be notified of their presence, Costanzo said.

The private investigator has staked out both the East Norwalk and the South Norwalk train stations and investigated one East Norwalk situation, Costanzo said, explaining that, “Other than that, we’re seeing no problems.”

NPS found that there have been situations where a family became homeless but the children continued to attend Norwalk Public Schools for years.

NPS should monitor homeless populations to eliminate the transition, Costanzo said.

“We should reconsider having existing students reregister at some point,” he said.

It wouldn’t hurt the BoE to collaborate with Planning and Zoning, Costanzo said.

“We don’t need to provide detailed student information to Planning and Zoning,” but rather, if an address is routinely turning up the BoE can provide that address to the city, he said.

“Collaboration with city would be smart,” Costanzo said.

BoE Vice Chairman Mike Barbis asked if families have to provide their Social Security numbers when they enroll.

They don’t, Costanzo said.

But, “The vast majority hand us immigration papers,” Costanzo said. “…80 new students from outside the country shows the strain the Board of Education is placed under.”

12 comments

Tony P March 22, 2017 at 7:57 am

Some quick math – 80 students x $13,000 cost to educate each student (rough estimate) = $1,040,000.

However, that doesn’t take into account the other services these students are using – ESL, increased counseling support, translators, free reduced lunch, etc, etc, etc – all at state of CT and Norwalk taxpayer expense.

God Bless the USA.

Jeff C. March 22, 2017 at 10:04 am

Tony P – 80 students spread across Norwalk’s 20 or so schools for half a year likely didn’t lead to any new teaching or facility expenses, even though there are certainly expenses associated with each new student. My child’s class added a few children midyear, but unfortunately no new teachers even though the class was already quite large. I would think that the families of these 80 children (which the article noted are all Norwalk residents) pay some sort of taxes, whether sales, income and/or property – a study by the Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy released last year estimated that undocumented immigrants in Connecticut pay approximately $132 million in state and local taxes.

Kenneth Werner March 22, 2017 at 11:39 am

Tony P., Mr. Costanzo said the vast majority of these folks “hand us immigration papers.” In other words, most of these folks are here legally and are residents of Norwalk. Therefore, their kids are entitled to education in Norwalk’s public schools. Even if they weren’t here legally, if they are residents of Norwalk their kids are still entitle to be educated here, as Mr. Costanzo noted. Would you want these kids not to be educated?

Let’s not forget that these new Norwalkers rent homes; buy furniture, clothing, and groceries; pay withholding and sales tax; and generally contribute to Norwalk’s economy. Add it up, and it’s likely they contribute substantially more to the economy than they consume in services.

Most of the Hispanics I know are hard-working, family-oriented, and self-sacrificing. U.S. statistics say that the crime rate among Hispanic immigrants is far less than it is among native-born Americans.

Let’s welcome these new neighbors — and their children.

anna ruso March 22, 2017 at 12:20 pm

If the are illegal they are not entitled to any of the taxpayers money. When they become legal residents then no question, people can mooch of the government as much as they can get away with for as long as they can.

Nabil E. Valencia March 22, 2017 at 12:36 pm

Thank you Kenneth Werner for your comment. I would hope that as grown adults we would deter from making any indirect attacks on children. Whether or not they are undocumented or not, they are CHILDREN. They are our neighbors and your kids classmates.

There has been a number of negative rhetoric surrounding children of immigrants or undocumented children themselves. I would hope that politics aside, our humanity would come out on top and not threaten or react condescendingly towards other human beings. Everyone is entitled to their opinion but please let us keep the respect alive.

Sasha Carr March 22, 2017 at 12:47 pm

I also appreciate Kenneth Werner’s reply and I too imagine that most of the parents described in the story are contributing to Norwalk’s economy.

I’m very sad to hear about children who have become homeless after being Norwalk residents. I’m sure that after losing their home, being able to stay in their former school can provide some stability and I am glad to hear that they will at least be able to finish out the school year.

srb March 22, 2017 at 1:21 pm

The main issue is that the stone throwers who for years maintained that school enrollment was rife with non-residents was fake news. 3 kids are apparently clearly non-residents out of a population of over 11,000 (the other 3 displaced due to a fire). As for the people living in the US illegally (nonetheless Norwalk residents) are not just legally entitled to an education but by Supreme Court decision have an unfettered Constitutional right to an education https://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/457/202
I should add, those illegal aliens may not be paying income tax but they are indirectly paying property taxes by paying their rent to Norwalk property owners (just as all renters do). It’s property taxes that provide the revenue to the City- not income tax. To argue that they aren’t contributing financially towards their children’s education is disingenuous.

Non partisan March 22, 2017 at 8:47 pm

Let’s get some facts straight
They are children. By definition we need to care and protect them. But their parents are stealing millions from you and me. I know this sounds harsh, but it’s reality.

I had an eye opening experience last summer. I hired a young adult to do some yard work. He introduced me to his nephew who was living with him. An awesome young man-17 – he work for a couple of saturdays. I learned he was a student at McMahon. Came here a few years ago from Central America to get an education. If he stayed at home he would be cleaning chicken coops ( which he did since 12 years old- full time- no school) he came to live with his uncle- and is going to school and I’m sure will make a fine citizen – some day. But……

There are a few hundred children like home living in Norwalk as unaccompanied minors. 80 noted above is just this years influx. This means that
1- their parent(s) sent them to life with family/ friend to get a free education.
2- they are living with family and friends- there is no increased tax income to offset the education costs born by the taxpayers if Norwalk
3- there is no- zero- nilche additional tax revenue generated by these children. They are living with friends and family. They didn’t buy it rent a home, buy furniture, etc. and remember- sales tax revenues goes to the state- who does not trickle down to Norwalk via the ecs formulas.
Neither do they pay income taxes.
4. Public education is paid for in real estate taxes. How much increased real estate tax is paid when you have an extra child in residence?
5. Immigration papers- this includes all the young children that are here ILLEGALLY awaiting a hearing
6. Let’s also add illegal apartments that don’t pay appropriate real estate taxes.

Tony P March 22, 2017 at 9:52 pm

@Jeff and @Kenneth – you gentlemen both are spinning the same tired lines of the left – you mind paying their share for me, so I dont have to? You fellas both seem so generous. School taxes are rolled into property taxes – so what that they pay sales tax on some items? So does everyone. School taxes are part of the property tax which isn’t likely being paid on a multifamily unit. Like the one on my street, where 3 different families live in a single family house with a Benz SUV and an Audi SUV in the driveway. 6 kids (at last count) coming from a single family house. Please. Spare me the contrived facts from a left leaning think tank. Norwalk’s P+Z and enforcement is as much to blame, as the town I currently teach in doesn’t zone for the same units Norwalk has and actually enforces zoning and code requirements, unlike Norwalk

@Kenneth – i worked at BMHS – they consumed more school based services than most any other student for the reasons I stated initally. Most frequent outcome – they would stay for 3 years until they learned English, and then would return home to their South American or Caribbean country, instantly increasing their earning potential in their home country. Good ROI for them, bad for the taxpayer

@Nabil – i stated costs, and what these students require – didn’t say anything about illegal or immigrants in general – at the end of the day, someone pays the bill – just noting what the actual cost is.

@SRB – see my first comment

@Non Partisan – spot on!

Tax Day fast approaching! Pay up!

Non partisan March 23, 2017 at 7:21 pm

@ Tony P

I’d be interested what your neighboring 3 family house is zone for and listed in the cities tax role as. You can access the tax roles from the cities web site.

David March 24, 2017 at 5:48 pm

Tony: your problem seems to be that home owners aren’t paying their property taxes. You better believe the renters are being charged. You should take up a crusade against that. Start a petition.

Non Partisan: I’m not sure what you’re saying. All 80 children who entered the school system are unaccompanied minors?

On a side note: how much did we pay the private investigator to find out that zero students are non residents?

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