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School requires proof of residency to ride bus

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By Som Lisaius

AJO, AZ (KOLD) - It's the first day of school here in Ajo and everything is pretty much status quo, but there's one big difference in the policy regarding student residency.

That difference could change things not only for border students near Ajo, but eventually across the state of Arizona as well.

Dr. Robert Dooley has his hands full proving residency for his students this school year.

"We want an electric bill or water bill or we could also accept a landline telephone bill," Dr. Dooley says.

For nine years, Dr. Dooley has been superintendent of Ajo Public Schools, a tiny Southern Arizona district of less than 500 students. Only about 60 of whom live outside the district, but essentially in no-man's land when it comes to public education.

"It is the area from Ajo to the international border that is unorganized territory," Dr. Dooley said.  "There's no school district there."

For years, these kids went to Ajo schools and never really had to worry too much about proof of residency.

But not anymore.

Public education costs the state about 6000 dollars per student per year. And the state is sick of paying for non-residents.

"It's always unfortunate when there are certain politics injected into how we educate kids in the state," says Ricardo Hernandez, chief financial officer for Pima County Schools. 

Because Lukeville is in Pima County, there's a responsibility to provide education and transportation to students who live there.

Only now, they have to prove it.

"As long as it's actually a physical location, a physical address in Lukeville then we'll take that as proof they actually live in Lukeville," Hernandez says.

So what do Ajo-area parents think about it?

"Everybody says don't let anybody be left behind," says mother Margot Alegra. "I don't think it would hurt for them to get an education here."

But again, education comes at a cost--and somebody has to pay for it.

"I pay taxes for my kids to go to school," says mother Bobbie Sharp. "It's only fair that everybody should do the same. Everybody should do that; everybody should have to do that."

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