A post on being pro-choice on education. But first, the mandatory video.
Now the post:
Yes, she broke the law. She should not have done that. Bad mom. Bad.
Kelley Williams-Bolar, a single mom who aspires to be a teacher, used her father’s address to enroll her children in a different school district than the one in which she lives. She was concerned for her kids and wanted them to have a decent education. So she enrolled them in a district that would, you know, teach them and keep them safe.
This is considered a felony by Ohio law. No, really: jail time for the crime of stepping around dubious laws to do better for your kids. For this heinous crime she was sentenced to nine days in jail. But beyond the jail time, the felony conviction would likely have scuttled her chances of becoming a teacher.
So Ohio Governor John Kasich, recognizing the injustice of the punishment, reduced her convictions to first degree misdemeanors rather than felonies, thus preventing the long-term effects. But Kasich was careful to note that she isn’t getting off scot-free. Kasich referred to his decision as a “second chance,” and allowed additional penalties to stand:
Williams-Bolar will remain on probation, must pass random drug screenings, refrain from alcohol, perform 80 hours of community service, maintain full time employment or attend school full time, and complete an approved mentorship program.
Which, since she did break the law, seems like it still fits the crime just fine.
But consider the crime. The notion that your geographic location locks you into a given school system, regardless of its safety or performance. Your geographic location means that unless you can pay for private school you have no options for the education of your children but the school district—good or bad—that you live within. Home values are affected by the school district, the differences between them are so significant.
My family and I can sympathize entirely with Williams-Bolar. I grew up in a semi-rural area outside of Youngstown, Ohio, where 5 acres is a typical-to-small piece of property with a few dairy farms and heavily wooded areas. But our property was in the Youngstown school district which, to understate, isn’t the best. My parents considered that an unaccptable option, so they scraped pennies together for 20 years to send my 5 siblings and me to Catholic schools—a sacrifice none of us really fully appreciates or could ever repay.
We did for a time consider renting an apartment that no one would actually live in over in one of the nearby suburbs that had a respectable school district, but we never followed through. But had we done so we would have been violating the laws that restrict the educational choice so important to so many families. We would have been crossing a somewhat arbitrary line on the map just so that we could get a good education. We would have been criminals for daring to aspire to more than the local government was able or willing to provide.
There is no good reason to prohibit educational choice. Parents who have no problem with failing schools will leave their children in the failing school, but parents who desire more ought to be able to take their education dollars elsewhere and not subsidize failure.
Williams-Bolar clearly understands the value of a good education, and people who value a good education ought to be able to seek one out.