Public School Bounty Hunters

How many of us remember the scenes of young East Germans risking their lives to escape under, over or around the Berlin Wall?  Happily, those memories are fading since the wall came down in 1989.  Unhappily, young people still have to take risks to escape another repressive system — only these scenes are taking place right here in America.

In city after city, public school districts are reacting to the growing number of students trying to get a better education.  As the newspaper Education Week recently reported, “Resurrecting a practice from the days when outlaws roamed the Wild West, a New Jersey school district is using ‘bounty hunters’ to track down students illegitimately attending its schools.”  The going rate to tipsters is now $100 for every out-of-district student uncovered.

Often, these are inner-city youth who use false addresses to attend what they see as better schools in affluent suburban districts.  One suburban Chicago district now uses surveillance cameras at the train station to identify students arriving from inner Chicago neighborhoods.  The principal thinks he’ll have to get even more aggressive in removing non-district students. 

Many educrats oppose school choice plans like the voucher system because they believe poor families won’t know what schools are best for their children. How paternalistic!  And how sad that poor students who are demonstrating their desire for a good education are being tracked down like outlaws.  

Many East Germans died escaping to freedom.  Let’s hope the American Berlin Wall falls soon so every student can choose where to get the best education.

This commentary was recorded and broadcast in July, 1992 on KBNP radio in Portland, Oregon  by talk show host Peter Weissbach.  It was written by Cascade Policy Institute founder Steve Buckstein.         


About Steve Buckstein

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4 Responses to Public School Bounty Hunters

  1. Neil Huff says:

    Let me get this straight. A family LYING on a school enrollment form is Ok?? What about lying on other forms such as public library applications, driving license applications, voting residence statements? using false names and other personal data on social security registration form as illegal aliens do? Are those lies also acceptable?

    This idea of normalizing cheating and lying is what drives the current amnesty bill in Congress. This will reward law breakers in much the same way as condoning falsified school enrollments forms.

    Does NO ONE in this poor, bleeding country have any idea at all of the moral/ethical repercussions of normalizing the principle of rewarding law breakers? The question is purely rhetorical. The obvious answer is “No”.

  2. Steve Buckstein says:

    The point is that no one has to lie about where they live to frequent virtually any store, restaurant, service provider, etc. in the private sector. They’re usually happy to have your business because you are paying their bills. Only government monopolies like the public school system put walls around themselves to keep outsiders out and, in many cases, to keep others in. Captive audiences are the norm for monopolies. If money followed the student as in a universal school choice system, no one would be rejected because of where they live – they’d be welcome as paying customers.

  3. Neil Huff says:

    That is certainly the point of the article.. which I understood. My concern is with the kind of lawless behavior behind the deceitful use of bogus addresses to put a child into a school district where that child doesn’t belong. That kind of cheating is being normalized in this country. People are being allowed to benefit from lying and cheating. There is an important principle involved here that overrides the matter of how school assignment is determined. Perhaps the system should be changed. But how to do that without the entire system collapsing is the question. Meanwhile we DO have laws. From personal experience I know that many of the people cheating in this way are often from cultures where few laws are observed in the immediate absence of a thug with gun on his hip. They come here to escape that mindset, but often end up bringing it with them. For others caught in similar circumstance they too are victims of a dysfunctional culture where drugs, alcohol, trouble with the law, family desertion, single parents, etc. are the rule rather than the exception.

    I confess I am also victimized by my upbringing. I was taught that respect for law and order was a hallmark of a great nation. Social injustice? I agree it exists; but nowhere is it written that everyone is guaranteed a happy outcome nor a fair share of talent, skill and the determination to succeed.

  4. Neil Huff says:

    If implemented in the manner suggested by this program’s social engineering designers, school choice appears also to be locked in. The fully integrated neighborhoods these meddlers wish to establish will certainly address the question of ‘school choice’ by eliminating any presumptive right of parents to select the school in which they wish to enroll their kids. This idea is so awful on so many different levels it makes one want to toss their cookies.

    Below is a snippet from the article…

    The source for this article appears a bit dodgy. – To ensure that “every American is able to choose to live in a community they feel proud of,” HUD has published a new fair-housing regulation intended to give people access to better neighborhoods than the ones they currently live in. The goal is to help communities understand “fair housing barriers” and “establish clear goals” for “improving integrated living patterns and overcoming historic patterns of segregation.” “This proposed rule represents a 21st century approach to fair housing, a step forward to ensuring that every American is able to choose to live in a community they feel proud of – where they have a fair shot at reaching their full potential in life,” said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. “For the first time ever,” Donovan added, “HUD will provide data for every neighborhood in the country, detailing the access African American, Latino, Asian, and other communities have to local assets, including schools, jobs, transportation, and other important neighborhood resources that can play a role in helping people move into the middle class.” Social engineering – See more at:

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