Monday, May 16, 2011

When Fighting for Your Children Is A Crime

As legislators in states across the country debate sweeping school voucher and tax credit scholarship proposals that would empower record numbers of low-income families to select better schools for their children, the need for these programs has once again been demonstrated by the prosecution of a mother who faces 20 years in prison for "illegally" sending her children to a better school.

In fact, just months after an Ohio mother was jailed for enrolling her daughters in a school outside of her home district in order to provide them with a better education, news that a Connecticut mother without a current address was arrested for enrolling her son in school is reinforcing the pressing need for more educational options.

The woman, whose last known address was in Bridgeport, Conn., is being charged with stealing $15,686—the value, according to prosecutors, of a year’s education—from the Norwalk public school system, where her son was enrolled. She faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Kevin P. Chavous, a board member of the American Federation for Children and the chairman of the Black Alliance for Educational Options, condemned efforts to prosecute the woman and said that her situation sounds a clarion call for the need to expand school choice across the country.

“It’s deplorable that in the land of the free, parents have to risk that very freedom just to give their children the right of access to a quality education,” Chavous said. “This woman has done what any of us in the same situation would have done. Her only crime was being unsatisfied sitting by as her child failed to get a quality education, and her struggle highlights the struggle of thousands of others across this country who are fighting to give their children a better future.”

The case in Connecticut comes just three months after Kelley Williams-Bolar made national headlines after she was sentenced to 10 days in jail in Akron, Ohio, for sending her daughters to a high-achieving public school in the Copley-Fairlawn School District. Williams-Bolar used her father’s address within the district’s boundaries to enroll her daughters in the school, and the district launched and elaborate and expensive investigation that resulted in her being convicted of falsifying her residency records.

The Williams-Bolar case sparked a bipartisan outcry that has helped spearhead a watershed year of school choice victories across the nation. Since the Williams-Bolar case in January, Ohio Gov. John Kasich has called for a quadrupling of the number of students eligible for the EdChoice voucher program, and legislative victories in Indiana, Washington, D.C., Georgia, Arizona and elsewhere are poised to dramatically expand the number of school choice programs across the country.

Chavous said that the he hopes that the Connecticut case will highlight the need for even greater growth of school choice nationwide.

“Our hope is that the expansion of school choice programs across the country will mean fewer stories about parents being prosecuted for simply sending their children to school,” he said. “No family in America should be forced to the point where they need to break the law to help their kids.”

- American Federation for Children | Alliance for School Choice, MAG

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