EDUCATION OR BUST
Yet another article about the "crime" of desperate parents trying to get a good education for their children. Kudos to Michelle Rhee and Gwen Samuel:
Three years ago, Yolanda Miranda spent the night in jail for grand larceny. Her crime? Stealing an education.
The mother of five turned herself in after she was busted for sending her kids to school in a city where she didn't live. Miranda, 36, says the schools in Rochester, N.Y., weren't good enough. So she sent her children to school in the nearby suburb of Greece, N.Y., instead.
"They put me in a holding cell. They accused me of grand larceny, for stealing education, and I had to laugh," Miranda told The Daily. "How can you steal an education?"
Miranda isn't the only parent to see the inside of a cell for such a crime. Education experts, investigators and school officials say the number of parents prosecuted for sending children to out-of-district schools has risen steadily in recent years, even as cash-strapped districts are becoming more aggressive about rooting out students who don't belong.
The main offenders seem to be some of the most vulnerable parents in society: poor and single mothers of color who are increasingly refusing to send their children to schools in the failing districts in which they live. They are desperate to provide their kids with a good education — and willing to go to jail to do so.
"If I had to do it again 10 times over, I would," said Miranda, whose charges were later reduced to a misdemeanor after she pleaded guilty to offering a false instrument for filing, or essentially lying on school enrollment forms. "You feel like you have to take things into your own hands. We have to do whatever we can to give our kids a chance."
…Connecticut's Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk area boasts the most unequal income distribution of any metropolitan area in the country, according to census data. In that area of the state — home to Tanya McDowell, who was sentenced to five years for grand larceny on school theft and drug-related charges last month — the top 5 percent claim a mean income of $685,000; the bottom 20 percent less than $15,000.
Those levels of inequality are worse than those in Zimbabwe, and education experts say they have helped turn Connecticut into a kind of ground zero for the fight against what activists are calling "ZIP-code education."
Last month, Michelle Rhee, one of the most controversial education reformers in the country, joined the fray.
Her StudentsFirst organization told The Daily it is partnering with the Connecticut Parents Union, a grassroots group, to advocate for school choice and fight the criminalization of parents who send children to out-of-district schools.
"This should shatter people's expectations of what they think the problem is in education," Rhee told The Daily. "People want to paint poor inner-city parents of color with the same broad brush, and say that they don't care, or they don't understand the value of an education," she said. "Well these parents are showing that they do know what's at stake, and that they're willing to take desperate measures for their children."
Gwen Samuel, who founded the Connecticut Parents Union last year to address the state's racial achievement gap, which is the worst in the nation, said criminalizing parents for sending their children to out-of-district schools is a poor deterrent.
"You cannot think arresting parents is going to change the fact that these kids need access to better schools," Samuel said. "And it won't stop mothers from doing everything they can to protect their children's futures."
EDUCATION OR BUST
More parents doing time for 'stealing education' for kids in better districts
By Mara Gay Sunday, March 11, 2012