Duke Ellington School of the Arts probe finds signs of widespread enrollment fraud, report says

An investigation has uncovered signs of widespread enrollment fraud at Duke Ellington School of the Arts in the District, according to reports.

The Washington Post reports the probe checked the records of approximately 100 students whose families claimed residency in the District and found that more than half may actually live outside the city.

Living in the District saves families more than $12,000 in annual tuition charged to non-District students.

The Washington Post, citing current and former District government officials, said the findings were shared during a meeting attended by representatives from the D.C. Office of the State Superintendent of Education and the Office of the Attorney General. According to the Washington Post, a lawyer in the state superintendent's office told those handling the case to "slow-track it" due to the possibility of negative publicity during a mayoral election year.

Mayor Muriel Bowser and State Superintendent of Education Hanseul Kang addressed those allegations on Tuesday.

"I have no knowledge of that comment," Kang said.

"We wouldn't support that comment from any one of our 33,000 employees saying that," Bowser stated.

Attorney General Karl Racine told FOX 5 that he couldn't directly comment on the investigation, but issued the following statement on tuition fraud:

"We take tuition fraud very seriously because it cheats both our students and our taxpayers. OAG meets with OSSE on a regular basis to discuss potential tuition fraud cases; after OSSE has completed its initial review of such matters, it refers cases for potential enforcement to OAG. OAG reviews the cases referred to it, conducts further investigation as necessary, and files lawsuits in cases where the evidence supports a finding of tuition fraud."

Racine's office also directed FOX 5 to a press release from 2016 in which a couple was fined $539,000 for fraudulently enrolling their three children in D.C. Public Schools.

Bowser said the audit was still underway and that "we have no interest in paying for students at our public schools who are not D.C. residents." Bowser went on to say she expects those who are in violation of the residential requirements to pay back the District and those in violation would be referred to Racine's office.

According to the Washington Post, only about 70 out of the 560 students at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts are on the books as living outside the District. The report indicates that investigators are focusing their attention on students claiming to be District residents.

Duke Ellington School of the Arts, which just underwent a $170 million renovation project paid for by taxpayer money, is revered as one of the top high schools in the District and is nationally touted for its arts program.