Parenting

Using Other Address to Send Kid to Better School: A Crime?

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Inside scoop: I facebooked and tweeted the story about the Ohio mom who became a convicted felon after she used her parents' address to send her daughters to a public school there. According to a very close source, the mother was an employee at the Akron schools district she refused to send her daughter to and while they are supportive of her as "you can imagine what it is doing for their image when a staff member won't send her kids there." The source also provided this inside scoop: "50 other folks were charged with the same offense (sending their child to Copley when they lived somewhere else), all 50 took the plea and ended up without a felony record after paying a fine. While I sympathize with a mother wanting the best for her child, it's not true that she wasn't offered a plea deal."

Which leads me to the point of this column: this mom and the "50 other folks" shouldn't be charged with an offense for wanting a better education for their children. It is time to take down the borders to our country's best schools and give ALL parents, regardless of their ability to pay property taxes, school choice. -Elisa

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I support school choice. I think parents, regardless of where they live, should have the right to enroll their children in any public school, and if they can afford it, parochial or private school. If they deem that homeschooling is best for their family, then I say go for it.

But here is my worry about using taxpayer money to fund anything other than the public schools: I worry that it would come at the expense of dismantling traditional public schools and forcing an exclusive group of parents into only private options. Please see our healthcare system, which is a mess and expensive. Oh, and it doesn't cover everyone.

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That said, at the very least, there shouldn't be borders to a good education. Please see the case of Kelley Williams-Bolar, an African-American mom in Ohio, who is now a convicted felon and served a nine-day jail sentence for using her parents' address to send her daughters to a better school district.

She is being called the "Rosa Parks of education reform" and for good reason:

The 40-year-old mother became the first person in U.S. history to have been convicted of “theft” and “tampering with records” for sending her children to a better school outside of her designated school district. Using the address of the children’s grandfather, who is a resident and pays taxes to Copley Township, Williams-Bolar enrolled her two daughters into the Copley Township school district, a much whiter and wealthier suburb in her home city of Akron, Ohio, in the hopes of pulling of them out of their own dangerous and poor performing school district.

Because of her “crime” of manipulating school residency requirements, Williams-Bolar spent nine days in jail and will have to serve two years probation, as well as 80 hours of community service.  Moreover, because of her felony conviction (yes, I said felony), Williams-Bolar now faces the prospect of losing her job as a teaching assistant at a local high school, as well as getting kicked out of the University of Akron where she is one semester shy of completing her education degree.

The injustices in this story are plenty: first, we have the overzealous Ohio prosecutor, who chose to relentlessly pursue a criminal conviction against Williams-Bolar when other parents who’d done the same thing were not criminally charged. While it’s hard to conclusively say if this prosecution was racially motivated, you do have to wonder why the prosecutor’s office absolutely refused to cut a deal with Williams-Bolar and let her plead guilty to a lesser misdemeanor charge.

Then there is the issue of how public education is funded.  Like many other states nationwide, Ohio primarily funds its education on the basis of property taxes, thereby ensuring that neighborhoods with higher home values have more money for education than schools in lower-income communities.