Monday, January 31, 2011

A "Rosa Parks" figure emerges in Ohio

STOP THE PRESSES!!!  This story is getting national attention, as it should.  A low-income, black, single mom, fed up with crappy schools in the only place she could afford to live, snuck her two daughters into a much better school (serving, of course, wealthy, white students) and, for trying to do what's right for her kids, was SENTENCED TO PRISON.  This is an outrage!  Here's hoping that this becomes a rallying cry – a Rosa Parks moment – for education reform in general, and parental choice in particular.


Here's the spot-on response from the Black Alliance for Educational Options:


BAEO Responds to Imprisonment of Ohio Mother

January 26, 2011


We are writing to express outrage at the circumstances that led to the prosecution and conviction of Kelley Williams-Bolar. As reported in the Akron Beacon Journal, Williams-Bolar was found guilty and sentenced severely for an act that defied the strict letter of the law but does not defy reason. She sent her daughters to schools outside her district of residence.

Ohio law says that if you live in Akron, you must send your children to your neighborhood school, even if it is a failing school and regardless of whether you feel your child would get a better education and stand a better chance of success elsewhere. The law says you're stuck-unless you're wealthy enough to opt out or fortunate enough to get into a high-performing charter school or to get selected for one of only 14,000 EdChoice scholarships available state-wide.

Williams-Bolar is not wealthy, so paying private school tuition for her two children was not an option, nor could she afford to move out of public housing and into a district with better schools. To be fair, Ohio has done more than most states in terms of providing options for parents whose children need better educational opportunities.  But clearly, more could and should be done.  In far too many states, however, these parents have no choice at all.  It is high time we change the laws that force low-income and working-class families to choose between playing by the rules and doing what's best for their children.   

Earlier this month, our nation honored the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., and this week, BAEO joins families, educators, and advocacy groups coast to coast in celebrating National School Choice Week. The Williams-Bolar case is a sober reminder that Dr. King's dream remains unrealized, and parental choice is the most pressing civil rights issue of our time. Every child deserves access to a quality education, and as Dr. King said, we must act with the fierce urgency of now.

Today, Kelley Williams-Bolar is serving a jail sentence for pursuing a better educational option for her daughters. Meanwhile, her children must-like thousands of other low-income students of color-endure a sentence of their own: consignment to unsafe, underperforming schools in close proximity to their homes, year after year. There is no justice here.


Below is a longer article from the Education Action Group:


The folks in charge of National School Choice Week are calling Kelley Williams-Bolar the "Rosa Parks of education."

     Her story illustrates their message perfectly, and it couldn't have hit the front pages at a more opportune time.

     Williams-Bolar is a single mother of two daughters who lives in Akron, Ohio. Four years ago she decided she wanted her kids to have a quality education, so she enrolled them in the neighboring Copley-Fairlawn school district, which presumably offers a better program and safer environment than Akron Public Schools.

     Unfortunately her kids were not qualified to attend Copley-Fairlawn unless Williams-Bolar paid tuition. School officials finally figured out that she did not live in the district, and her children did not live with her father, who resides in the Copley-Fairlawn district.

     They asked Williams-Bolar to pay $30,000 in back tuition. When she failed to produce that sort of money, the courts got involved.

     She was sentenced to 10 days in jail, two years of probation and community service for falsifying public school records.

     To make matters worse, Williams-Bolar, a university student preparing to become a teacher, will not be able to get a job in her field in Ohio, because convicted felons are banned from teaching positions.

     Williams-Bolar went to jail, and perhaps crippled her professional future, for sending her kids to the school of her choice. And all of this happened in the middle of National School Choice Week.

     "I did this for them, so there it is," she was quoted as saying about her kids. "I did this for them."


January 27, 2011


A "Rosa Parks" figure emerges in Ohio during National School Choice Week

Ohio mom jailed for sending her two daughters to the school of her choice


By Steve Gunn

EAG Communications

 Subscribe in a reader