Friday, January 28, 2011

Ohio Woman Jailed for Being a Good Mom

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

There is nothing equal about educational opportunities in America, especially in regard to public K-12 schools, and many Americans actively fight to maintain this inequality.

Kelly Williams-Bolar of Akron, Ohio, was recently arrested for enrolling her daughters in a richer and safer school district than the one in which they lived.   The richer district, Copely-Fairlawn, was so incensed at what they suspected this African-American woman was doing, that they hired a private investigator to follow her and prove that she was actually a resident of one of Akron's poorer school districts.  Judge Patricia Cosgrove sentenced Ms. Williams-Bolar to 10 days in jail and community service as a warning to other poor people to stay the hell out of the more affluent Copely-Fairlawn District.

The problem is an old one in America, one that is familiar to most educators.  Over eighty cents of every dollar that goes to public schools is from local and state sources, and most of those dollars are generated in property and corporate taxes.  Rich districts have more property value, and hence their schools are better funded.  Poorer districts, where many minority citizens live out of economic necessity, suck the hind tit when it comes to school funding.

This rich-poor dynamic also plays out in the various states where some have more money to invest in education than others - or more interest in producing an educated citizenry.  New Jersey spends over $9,000 on each of its students per year, while Mississippi and Utah only ante up just over $3,000 for each of their students.

It was that situation that led the courts to try to mix things up a few decades ago with "busing" programs that took children out of their local districts and into ones across town.  Busing was fought, loudly and sometimes violently, by angry parents - more often than not white parents from the richer school districts.

The surest way for this problem  to be corrected is to have schools be funded at the federal level - perhaps through special educational taxes levied on all citizens - including corporate citizens.  But people want to maintain local control over schools so that local values can be taught and practiced in the schools.  They worry that more federal funding will mean more federal control over curriculum.  Some areas of the country, Texas and Arizona leap to mind, are particularly intolerant of outside influences.

School districts also want to have the ultimate say-so over  how their budgets and spending priorities are set.  Some areas value technology education, others value science or liberal arts, and still others value football.

As long as these entrenched school funding policies persist, some districts will continue to fill universities while others shuffle their students off into unemployment lines and jails.

Kelly Williams-Bolar is headed to jail for attempting to break out of a system of entrenched racism.  She is headed to jail for trying to make life better for her children.  She is a good mom, and for that crime she will be behind bars with so many other impoverished citizens of color whose main crime was to be born in the wrong place and under the wrong circumstances.  That is a shameful outcome for America in the 21st century.

1 comment:

bk in MO said...

OK, this is a policy problem that interests me. Allowing states to have control over education, health, and welfare is a dangerous thing. I'm still angry at Bill Clinton for turning welfare over to the states during his tenure as President. And now we have state legislatures falling all over themselves to restrict welfare benefits. Another problem is unemployment compensation, which varies so much from state to state that it is frightening. In Massachusetts, for example, payments are the highest ($628-$942) and last the longest (79 weeks), while in Missouri (3rd at the bottom), the pay tops at $320. It is hard to understand why an unemployed worker in Massachusetts would need double or triple what a person gets in Missouri. Even neighboring New York tops out at $405.