Effective January 1, 2017, the process by which school districts in Illinois may dispute student residency will fundamentally change. Public Act 99-0670 (HB 4606) was signed by Governor Rauner on July 29, 2016, amending Section 10-20.12b of the Illinois School Code. Delaying the effective date until January will provide school districts with an additional period of time to review and revise their residency policies and procedures. Following is a summary of the most significant revisions to the statute.

Letter to Parents/Guardians

In the initial letter sent to parents/guardians notifying them that the residency of one or more of their children is being challenged, the amended statute requires that school districts list the specific reasons why the board believes that the student(s) is a nonresident of the school district. This is a fundamental change in the law, which does not currently contain any such requirement. The statute continues to afford parents/guardians ten calendar days after receiving this letter the right to request a residency hearing to dispute the board’s decision.

Evidence at Hearing

The statute has been revised to provide that at least three calendar days prior to the hearing, each party must disclose to the other party all written evidence and testimony that it intends to submit, along with a list of witnesses that each party intends to call to testify during the hearing. If this information is not exchanged, the statute provides that the evidence and testimony is barred from admission at the hearing, absent the consent of the other party.

Timeline for Board Decision

The revised statute allows boards of education additional time to render a written decision – 30 calendar days instead of 15 calendar days from the conclusion of the hearing. The board must send a copy of its written decision to the parents/guardians within 5 calendar days of its decision by certified mail, return receipt requested.

Appeal to Regional Superintendent

Previously, the statute provided that the school board’s decision was final and could only be appealed to the local state circuit court on administrative review. The revised statute provides for a new level of appeal with the regional superintendent of schools. The written decision by the board must inform the parents/guardians that they have the right, within five calendar days after receiving the decision, to petition the regional superintendent of schools to review the decision. If a petition for review is filed, the student may continue to attend school, but tuition for those continued days of attendance will be charged to the parents/guardians in the event that the student is ultimately determined not to be a resident of the school district. The petition for review must include the basis for the request and must be sent by certified mail, return receipt requested, to both the regional superintendent of schools and the district superintendent.

Delivery of Materials to Regional Superintendent

Within five calendar days after receiving the petition, the board of education must deliver the following documents to the regional superintendent:

  • The written decision of the board
  • Any written evidence and testimony that was submitted by the parties during the hearing
  • A list of all witnesses that testified during the hearing
  • Any existing written minutes or transcript of the hearing
  • A verbatim record of the hearing in the form of an audio or video recording, if any

The board of education is also permitted to submit a written response to the petition, if it so chooses. The regional superintendent’s review of the decision is limited to the documentation submitted; in other words, no additional testimony will be allowed.

Decision by Regional Superintendent

Within ten calendar days after receiving the documentation listed above, the regional superintendent shall issue a written decision that indicates whether or not there is clear and convincing evidence that the student is a resident of the district. This written decision will be provided to both the board of education and parents/guardians and shall detail the rationale for the regional superintendent’s decision. The decision of the regional superintendent may be appealed to state circuit court by either party.

The statute contains a separate section that applies only to Chicago Public Schools along with a number of more technical changes that are beyond the scope of this alert. If you are preparing to challenge the residency of students enrolled in your district after January 1, 2017, make sure to consult to consult with your attorney about the new requirements contained in the law.

The full text of the revised statute is available here.