Imagine this: Principals recruit poor children to come to their schools. The poor children are counted so that the schools get federal money for disadvantaged kids. Then after the money is secure, principals nudge the poor children to leave. They keep the money but drop the kid.

It’s a nefarious scenario — schools using children to get money. School board member Shelia Jackson alleges that it happens in San Diego Unified. Now the school district is going to investigate.

Jackson raised her allegations Tuesday night in the middle of a school board debate about how to divide up federal money for poor children. The school board voted unanimously to start an investigation into the allegations, seeing if principals are indeed using kids to bring in cash.

Schools get a share of roughly $21 million in federal money based on their poverty rate. San Diego Unified calculates that rate from the number of families who apply for free or reduced price lunch at each school. It also uses census data to add in local families who are poor enough to apply but didn’t.

I’ve heard the same worry over and over in community meetings in southeastern San Diego, usually from neighborhood activists who criticize busing of kids from south to north. But I’ve never found proof that it happens. I once tried to track student transfers, but I didn’t see a tell-tale pattern. Do you have proof that this is happening — or that it isn’t? Has it happened to you? Please contact me.

Emily Alpert is the education reporter for What should she write about next? Please contact her directly at

Like VOSD on Facebook.

Emily Alpert was formerly the education reporter for Voice of San Diego.

Leave a comment

We expect all commenters to be constructive and civil. We reserve the right to delete comments without explanation. You are welcome to flag comments to us. You are welcome to submit an opinion piece for our editors to review.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.