Gutsy. Courageous. Loving. Committed. Dare I say, even “Momma Grizzly-esque.” Those are the words that come to mind when I think of mothers who are willing to do whatever it takes to ensure their children have the opportunities that they themselves didn’t have. Moms like Kelley Williams-Bolar, the Ohio mother of two who was arrested earlier this year on felony charges for using her father’s address to send her daughters to a better school. Ms. Williams-Bolar, herself an aspiring educator, was granted clemency last month by Ohio Governor John Kasich, but her case remains an example of the depths of utter absurdity US education policy has reached.
As Michael Flaherty wrote over the weekend, the pressure is rising, both for parents who find themselves zoned into abysmal school districts, and for the educators who choose to respond to these situations like a Texas border militia. Flaherty writes:
From California to Massachusetts, districts are hiring special investigators to follow children from school to their homes to determine their true residences and decide if they "belong" at high-achieving public schools. School districts in Florida, Pennsylvania and New Jersey all boasted recently about new address-verification programs designed to pull up their drawbridges and keep "illegal students" from entering their gates.
Other school districts use services like VerifyResidence.com, which provides "the latest in covert video technology and digital photographic equipment to photograph, videotape, and document" children going from their house to school. School districts can enroll in the company's rewards program, which awards anonymous tipsters $250 checks for reporting out-of-district students.
Following children to their homes? Who in the heck heard that proposal and didn’t immediately think it sounds like child-stalking? Video surveillance? I’m fairly sure that, while not illegal, taping children going into and coming out of their homes would invite a lot of scrutiny from parents. And paid informants? Selling out a child’s chance at a better education for a measly $250 bucks is nothing short of reprehensible. Keep in mind, these efforts are proposed “solutions” to the problem of attentive, involved parents “stealing” an education for their children. No really – that’s how school officials described it when the Williams-Bolar story broke:
While her children are no longer attending schools in the Copley-Fairlawn District, school officials said she was cheating because her daughters received a quality education without paying taxes to fund it.
"Those dollars need to stay home with our students," school district officials said.
Sadly, the trend in public education has been to send more money to schools in exchange for little to no improvement in students’ outcomes. In America’s urban centers, public schools’ results are even less encouraging, and low-income parents currently have few, if any, options for private schools, charter schools, or transferring their children to better school districts. If the centralization of education policy and the alignment of educators’ and administrators’ interests against those of parents is preventing real changes and improvements, then decentralization, privatization, vouchers, and other alternative education models should be given a second look. It’s disingenuous for school (and teacher union) officials to prattle on about how we need to “think of the children” and spend more taxpayer money on public schools, while at the same time turning away children with actual, demonstrable need and condemning them to a failing school system.
Public Schools: “We need more state and federal spending because children are the future. But you poor people had better keep your poor kids in your own failing districts.”