Seeking a good education ought not be a felony.

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.

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16 thoughts on “Seeking a good education ought not be a felony.

  1. Scott W. says:

    Check out the documentary The Cartel: http://www.jamesbowman.net/reviewDetail.asp?pubID=2037 You can stream it on Netflix last I checked.

  2. Guadalupe says:

    The real crime is discrimination by socio-economic status. And it’s completely legal. Five miles away, A world Apart is a book I highly recommend if you still don’t agree with the post.

    The scary thing is, it’s completely acceptable and people who judge this mother are ignorant of the vast differences of public schools. These laws are there to keep the poor out. Call it what you want, but it’s an invisible fence that is enforced by the government.

  3. Andy Kirchoff says:

    Alexis, your comment about the “collective” common good being a pretense for preventing individual action demonstrates the problem with Tom’s point about immigration.

    The Catholic tradition has respect for “common good,” yes. Included in that descriptor is certain sacrifice of individual autonomy for this collective good. However, Catholic Social Teaching also contains a healthy dose of more individualistic notions, as well. We see it in the rejection of nuclear weaponery (which kills individuals in the attempt to save more lives) usage to accomplish a greater good; but we also see it in:

    1) The right of a person to migrate from place to place as prioritized over the right of a government to prudentially keep a secure border;

    2) The right of a parent to choose the right education for their child over the right of a government to set prudential educational policy.

    Collectivism is dangerous for education. It is dangerous for migration. It presumes that people are incapable of making good decisions for themselves and that someone must make these decisions for them. Subsidiarity is best understood as a form of personalism; when people are disobeying a law to fulfill what is an organic human need, it is a problem with the law more than with the person, and the focus of a Catholic should be to change the law rather than insist on punishment for the offending party, even as that shouldn’t be entirely set aside.

    1. Tom Crowe says:

      Excellent points, Andy, and if concerns for the free and unrestrained movement of those who wish a given society harm or who would enter simply to suck of the public teat rather then be contributing members of society were not real then I would wholeheartedly endorse this approach to immigration. Alas, we are not angels, these concerns r are real and legitimate, and thus a more restrictive approach to immigration is just—though, as I’ve said repeatedly, our present system is terribly flawed.

      1. Francis says:

        Tom: “suck of the public teat”? Really? Can’t you come up with a less degrading analogy? As a Catholic, I find it repulsive to describe this situation in a way that reduces people (who are made in the image of God) to the image of animals fighting to get at the sow/cow/dog(I won’t say it)/cat, etc. It is demeaning and dehumanizing to our brothers and sisters from south of the border who most often are fleeing poverty in desperation. What would cause any of us to leave our homeland and our families? Poverty, violence, etc., on one side of the border, and the hope for a better future on the other side of the border.

        1. Andy Kirchoff says:

          Agreed, Francis. Tom, do you really think migrants are risking life and limb crossing the desert or stowing away on oil rigs just to get a welfare check? It ain’t that simple. Most of them aren’t going to risk that if they make it here, anyway: they know that deportation is just an ID check away.

          Worries about a “welfare mentality” among migrants is eerily similar to the belief that kids in private schools are being raised into an elitist mentality or that homeschoolers are going to be brainwashed. Its a prejudice based on anecdotes and thwarted by facts.

          1. Brad says:

            Francis and Andy, take it easy. Tom did not say that everyone entering our nation comes here to mooch. He said that some people come to harm us, some come to mooch, and some come to contribute. Our immigration policy needs fixing in many ways. One item in this debate recognized by the Church is the duty (yes, duty) of nations to protect their borders in order to regulate the flow of immigrants and be able to document who is entering the country.

          2. Francis says:

            Brad: Nazis compared the Jews to rats, Hutus compared Tutsis to cockroaches in Rwanda, and the Irish Catholics were compared to sub-human apes. Language has power, and when Tom uses degrading language he dehumanizes people and incites others to view them as less than human. No Jew would ever have been placed into an oven had not Hitler dehumanized the Jews through propaganda and “education”.

          3. Brad J says:

            Francis, I hope you read my post carefully enough to catch my point. There are different categories which can be used to describe people who enter this country, and Tom was NOT saying that everyone who enters does so to live off the fat. He used a colorful image to describe a fraction of people who do fit in that category. I personally wouldn’t have used it as it was a bit crass, but because it fits certain people I don’t think it’s degrading either. He essentially said that some people are lazy. St. Paul also called some people lazy, and I don’t think he was degrading anyone either. See 2 Thessalonians 3:10. Even mentioning what he said in the same context as Jews being called rats, Tutsis being called cockroaches, and Irish Catholics being called sub-human apes indicates to me that you are taking it far too seriously. His image is not in the same ballpark.

          4. Francis says:

            Brad J: It is in exactly the same ball park, and the fact that you either don’t see it or that you are willing to defend it only serves to illustrate the damage that this kind of language can cause. I agree that Tom is using this analogy to describe a small fraction of people who take advantage of the system, but then why not do so in a way that respects human life? St. Paul seemed capable of doing so, and I will wager that he was far less educated than Tom Crowe.

          5. Joe M says:

            Good grief Francis. Really? Hitler? Don’t you think that the first step, if you are genuinely concerned, is to ask Tom to clarify what he meant? Perhaps saving the Hitler analogy for step 7 or 8..?

  4. Alexis says:

    I’m not sure why this is a Catholic position at all. Yes, everyone deserves a good education. That’s why we created the public school system – to benefit ALL children and ALL of society. If this woman would have spent half the time she spent conspiring to cheat the system on improving the system and helping her child’s school, not only would she have benefited, but the entire school would have. Taking children out of failing schools does nothing for the students left in those schools. It’s interesting that this “catholic” website is taking a me, me, me approach. I don’t think it’ Catholic at all.

    1. Tom Crowe says:

      Alexis— yes, it is, which is why competition for the finite pool of tax dollars would benefit all the kids. If, as the video discusses, the schools are forced to actually perform or lose students and thereby money’s, then eventually the bad schools would close, leaving only good schools that would truly benefit all students and not just teachers unions and social experimenters. In that way, improving the schools for betterment of all children and society is an eminently Catholic position. Cheers!

    2. AliceBlueGown says:

      Alexis, have you ever spent any time as a parent trying to improve a public school system? Even if you can get a teacher or administrator to agree with an idea you have – or work you volunteer to do – you almost certainly will be given some bureaucratic rule why it cannot be done.

      Saying that a child should stay in a failing school for the sake of the other children is a form of human sacrifice. While Catholics may chose to sacrifice themselves for others, we don’t offer others as sacrifice, certainly not our children.

  5. Andy Kirchoff says:

    I agree entirely with this piece, and I love the video.

    So why not do the same for immigration policy? If we respect the right of parents to choose the best for their children in regards to education, why not do the same thing for migration? Why insist upon the enforcement of big government immigration laws devised by eugenicists? Why not grant a limited form of amnesty to kids who came here as 3 year olds, and community service and/or fines for those the willfully broke the law in crossing the border to this country, whether it was on a boat from China or Cuba or on the bottom of a railcar from Mexico?

    1. Tom Crowe says:

      Andy— that was quick. I was wondering how soon someone else would consider that. I gave that angle a lot of consideration and originally worked it into my post. But I removed it because I wanted the education issue to stand on its own, and because I see some significant differences. For starters, the individuals who are stuck in their school district are bound by school district lines, not national boudaries. Attendant to that, the question is application of tax revenues paid by the pool of people. Now a good number of those in the failing school districts don’t pay much in taxes, but they are already part of the body politic that supports the schools, so transferring the money is an accounting transfer within the same basic jurisdiction. Also, the education issue is a matter of people who live within the same body politic choosing among the different services already paid for within that body based on which they feel serves their needs most fully, while immigration involves changing nations entirely and not just another option within the same body politic. Immigration is something entirely different and massively more complex. Immigration as we know it is terribly flawed, and it bear an analogous relationship to the school choice issue, but they remain different issues.

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