The city where you live does not have good schools. You really want to send your child to a neighboring school district, but you do not live there. You do, however, own some rental property. Or maybe, you are thinking of purchasing rental property in that district. You figure, you pay the taxes, shouldn’t your child be allowed to attend the schools?

In Illinois, the answer is no. While it may not seem fair, paying real estate taxes is not enough to establish residency for school purposes.

The Illinois Supreme Court dealt squarely with this issue in Connelly v Gibbs. A Chicago family wanted to obtain the improved special education services available to Skokie’s District 219 residents. Therefore, the family bought a condo in Skokie. The father and son lived in the condo during the week, but returned home on weekends. The Court specifically rejected this arrangement. Even though the family owned real estate in Skokie and paid real estate taxes for Skokie schools, the Court said that the Skokie residence was not the student’s “regular fixed, nighttime abode.” Furthermore, the family could not live in the condo for the sole purpose of going to school. Therefore, the son could not attend the schools and the family could be charged tuition.

Based on this case, Illinois residents can only send their children tuition free to the district where they intend to make a permanent home with a fixed nighttime abode, but not solely for the purpose of going to school. Owning real estate or even leasing an apartment in another community is not enough to establish school residency.

If you receive notice from your child’s school disputing your residency, do not attempt to handle this matter yourself. Parents often make incriminating statements that could cost them thousands of dollars in tuition money. While we never advise any client to lie or perpetuate a fraud on the school district, which is a criminal act, an experienced school law attorney can help you present your case in the best light. If you are a legitimate resident, an attorney can help establish that with the school district. If you are not, the attorney may be able to help minimize the costs to you.

If you have questions about this or another related school matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)