Sunday, October 2, 2011

'Felonious' school choice

When rich people do it, it's called "school choice by realtor." It's the process of choosing a home based on school district quality. Lower-income people rarely have this luxury.

Kelley Williams-Bolar, an African-American mother of two used her father's address to get her kids into a better school. For this act on behalf of her children, she was charged with felonies. Kentucky has taken similar action against parents who have done the same thing.

Michael Flaherty, producer of "Waiting for Superman," talks about how some states are engaged in criminalizing the theft of "free public education."

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, 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.

Only in a world where irony is dead could people not marvel at concerned parents being prosecuted for stealing a free public education for their children.

In August, an internal PowerPoint presentation from the American Federation of Teachers surfaced online. The document described how the AFT undermined minority parent groups' efforts in Connecticut to pass the "parent trigger" legislation that offers parents real governing authority to transform failing schools. A key to the AFT's success in killing the effort, said the document, was keeping parent groups from "the table." AFT President Randi Weingarten quickly distanced her organization from the document, but it was small consolation to the parents once again left in the cold.

Kevin Chavous, the board chairman for both the Black Alliance for Educational Options and Democrats for Education Reform, senses that these recent events herald a new age for fed-up parents. Like Martin Luther King Jr. before them, they understand "the fierce urgency of now" involving their children's education. Hence some parents' decisions to break the law—or practice civil disobedience.

These people shouldn't be in jail. They are doing what parents do. They are fighting for their children. Should parents be punished for seeking out ways to get their kids a better education?

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