Mom Jailed for Trying to Get Her Kids In a Better School

Jenny Erikson
7

school lane

Raising our kids is probably the most important thing we moms will ever do in our lives. One of the biggest decisions we will ever make for our children is how they will be educated.

We have a lot more options these days than our own parents did. Charter schools are popping up all over the country, and homeschooling is now seen as a viable education option. Of course, there are always private schools, but many parents can’t afford the expensive price tag that comes along with them.

This week is National School Choice Week, so there’s been a lot of talk in the blogosphere about different educational paths for our kids. Unfortunately, there still aren’t a ton of viable options out there for parents to choose from. Waiting lists for charter schools (if they’re even available) are notoriously long, private school may be financially out of reach, and homeschooling simply isn’t an option for some families. These limitations leave most kids at whatever public school they’re zoned for, no matter how crappy it is.

We’ve all known kids that have gotten transfers to different schools, and if your town was anything like my town growing up, there were a number of people that used a friend’s or relative’s address to claim residency in a better school district than their own.

One such Ohio woman was convicted of grand theft and sent to jail for using her father’s address to claim residency in a top school district.

[Kelley] Williams-Bolar decided four years ago to send her daughters to a highly ranked school in neighboring Copley-Fairlawn School District.

But it wasn't her Akron district of residence, so her children were ineligible to attend school there, even though her father lived within the district's boundaries.

While her children are no longer attending schools in the Copley-Fairlawn District, school officials said she was cheating because her daughters received a quality education without paying taxes to fund it.

I was under the impression that schools were mostly funded by the state, so I didn’t really understand the ‘cheating’ aspect of it. Wouldn’t the school get extra money due to the kids’ attendance? Why then, would they complain?

It turns out that the state of Ohio (like many other states) discriminates against some districts by withholding funding. Out of 609 Ohio school districts, the state-funded revenue per pupil ranges from under $2,000 to over $10,000. The Copley-Fairlawn District receives only $1,929 per student. 

Everyone in every district pays taxes that get funneled into the Department of Education. Shouldn’t that money then get equally distributed to each pupil in the state, regardless of which school district they are a part of? Why doesn’t it? As it turns out, the state decides how much each district should contribute to the cost of educating its students, and then it makes up the difference. In wealthy neighborhoods like the Copley-Fairlawn District, Ohio assumes that the residents can pay more in local taxes, so they offer a paltry $1,929 per student, even though those residents already paid state taxes into the state education fund. 

Given that information, I can see why the district opted to prosecute Williams-Bolar for taking advantage of the system, even though the state was probably thanking her for saving them up to $8,000 per kid. However, there is the matter of her father being a legal resident and taxpayer in the district. He has been paying taxes, why shouldn’t he have the option of enrolling his grandkids? The school district thinks it’s fair to tax him to pay for other people’s kids to attend good schools, but not his own grandchildren?

If you have to live within a tax-paying district to take advantage of public services, does this mean you can’t enter a library that isn’t in your area? Can you call the cops if you’re robbed outside of your district? What if your income level is such that you don’t pay taxes?

If the school is says, “she was cheating because her daughters received a quality education without paying taxes to fund it,” have they checked with all of the other parents in the district to make sure they’re paying their taxes? Will they kick out all the other kids whose parents didn’t ‘pay their fair share’?

This is just one of too many examples of how broken our education system is. We need to put school choice back in the hands of the parents, not government bureaucrats. Let’s equalize the amount of money given to each student within a state or district, and let their parents decide where they want to send them to school. Once we make the schools compete with each other for that income, they’ll shape up. Or they’ll go out of business, creating an opportunity for a new school to rise up and flourish. 


Image via eamoncurry123/Flickr

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