Thursday, February 23, 2012

Ohio Mother Turns Conviction into Into School Choice Advocacy

Last year, citizens all across the country were rightly outraged when an Ohio mother named Kelley Williams-Bolar was jailed and convicted for acting on the most basic of parental desires: wanting to choose a safe school her children.  This year, Williams-Bolar is making her conviction—that is, her conviction that parents have the right to choose the best education for their children—into positive work to ensure that families across the Buckeye State have real educational options.

In January 2011, Williams-Bolar was convicted of a third-degree felony for tampering with records after she enrolled her daughters into a public school outside of her assigned school using her father's address.  In total, she served 10 days in jail for nothing more than wanting a choice when it comes to her daughters’ education.

While Governor Kasich, who last year expanded two of Ohio’s school choice programs and created a voucher program for students with special needs, used his executive powers to grant clemency to Williams-Bolar, a national outcry still spread across the country.

But now, Williams-Bolar is taking her painful story and inspiring change in Ohio.  This weekend, Williams-Bolar, along with long-time school choice activist Michelle Bernard, will rally for educational equality in Cleveland.

And the rally isn’t the only educational reform event for this Akron mother.  In fact, Williams-Bolar is spearheading the creation of the Ohio Parents Union, an organization designed to serve as a unified force on behalf of parents—and, perhaps, a foil to some of the very unified forces that stand in the way of school choice.  Across the nation, there are five similar organizations being formed from Connecticut to California.

A year after Williams-Bolar's harrowing ordeal, the mother, who works at the Akron Public Schools serving as an educational assistant at Buchtel High School, finally has real educational options for her two daughters.  

Her daughters are now enrolled in the EdChoice Scholarship Program, a voucher program that gives scholarships to students stuck in failing schools—including the district school that Williams-Bolar was avoiding, which was on Academic Watch.

In 2011, the EdChoice Program was greatly expanded, by quadrupling the number of scholarships available.  In the 2011-12 school year, more than 16,000 students received a scholarship to attend the school of their parents’ choice.
Let’s see how far this great mother—who has never stopped fighting for her children’s education—will go!

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

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