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Public Records

Address stress: Why public schools rely on good public records

Summer ends even earlier for public school administrators and staff than it does for the kids. Though the first day of school is still weeks away in some areas, there’s plenty for districts to do to prepare. One of their biggest assignments: creating accurate classroom student lists for each school in the district, complete with each family’s address and contact information.

It’s a huge job, of course, and there is a lot at stake in getting all of this information right. These student lists often determine how districts allot financial support to each school. This is why many states require that school districts verify where every student lives. So how can public school districts ensure that they get the correct amount of funding without getting bogged down by a public records nightmare? A fast and reliable public records database can help districts get their finances in order before they go back to school.

Before the bell

While public school districts come in a huge variety of shapes and sizes, all of them rely on public records information to some extent. Most school districts have a central office where parents can go to register their children for class in the months before the school year begins. There they fill out a form with their information but usually must also provide additional proof that the information they gave is accurate. This proof can include utility bills, tax documents, and similar documents.

Most school districts today try to manage this process digitally by allowing parents to fill out the forms online and then sending follow-up emails if necessary. But that’s far from a foolproof system, as parents may overlook the emails, or simply ignore them. What’s more, many families don’t have reliable internet access.

Up-hill both ways

Clearly, this is a massive amount of data to gather and manage, and it can cost school districts a great deal of time and money. That expense only goes up when parents neglect to bring the additional documentation when they fill out the forms, which happens often. And even when they do, the district staff have to check those documents for accuracy – for instance, calling the sanitation company to find out whether it has been receiving payments from the address on the bill. There can also be additional challenges, like getting information from parents whose first language isn’t English or verifying information in the middle of a school year because a family moves.

Every student matters

This verification is important to school districts for several reasons. This is because most school districts get a dollar amount per student, and those dollars are significant and crucial. In Illinois, for example, that figure per student is about $17,000. Taxpayers trust that their money is being distributed fairly and effectively, which is why several states, including Illinois, require that students actually live in a district’s boundaries in order to attend a school there. And while 44 states and the District of Columbia allow students to attend schools outside their neighborhood or district, schools still need to verify student information for other reasons, such as to confirm a families’ eligibility for things like bussing support and food programs.

Incorrect residency information can be costly both to districts and to the students. And that’s not just in terms of funding. If the information is incorrect, a district may be forced to have the child leave a particular school, which is a painful situation for the child, the parents, and the school staff.

The CLEAR approach

One way to ensure trust in the process — and also to save time and resources — is by leveraging a more reliable public records system like Thomson Reuters CLEAR. CLEAR is a cloud-based public records application that collects and analyzes thousands of state and federal data sets. It then displays the search results via a customizable, user-friendly dashboard.

While school districts can tap public records on their own to determine student residency, that’s a time-consuming process – one that CLEAR has automated. It offers a fast and easy way to check all of this information, saving districts time and resources, and helping them keep parents, taxpayers, and state education administrators happy.

To address these challenges, districts can tap into a bulk-data search capability with CLEAR Batch Services. This tool quickly digs through current and historical public records in order to verify the home addresses of every student with a single search. CLEAR Batch Services also keeps districts current on students’ address changes.

To make sure that your district is ready to serve every student, learn more about CLEAR for your public records needs.

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