Feature

Schools: Where Jim Crow lives on

Kelley Williams-Bolar, who lied about her address so that her daughters could attend a better, mainly white, school, was convicted of a felony and sent to jail for nine days.

This may be a “Rosa Parks moment for education,” said Kevin Huffman in The Washington Post. Kelley Williams-Bolar, a black single mom from the projects of Akron, Ohio, was convicted last week of a felony and sent to jail for nine days. Her crime? Lying about her address, so that her two daughters could attend a better, mainly white, school in the suburbs. Her plight has caused an uproar, because it shines a spotlight on America’s dirty little secret: “We may have done away with Jim Crow laws, but we have a Jim Crow public education system.” The reality is that if you’re middle-class or wealthy, you can live in a community with good schools, or send your kids to private school. If you’re black and you’re poor, “you’re out of luck.” For daring to challenge that shameful inequity, Williams-Bolar—a high school teaching assistant just one semester shy of completing her own college degree—was sent to jail. “Message received,” said Nsenga Burton in TheRoot.com. “‘Don’t send your hood children to our white school district with better funding.’”

“Sad as this situation is,” racism was not a factor here, said Bob Dyer in the Akron Beacon Journal. The Copley-Fairlawn City School District has confronted 48 families of all colors in recent years who were lying about their addresses so their kids could attend the district’s excellent public schools. When caught, all but Williams-Bolar either took their kids out or paid tuition to the district to keep them in. As a homeowner in Copley-Fairlawn, I have paid high taxes for years to support the schools, which means Williams-Bolar “stole from my pocket.” I sympathize with her goals for her kids, but not her methods. “If your children’s education is really your primary concern, move.

What if you can’t afford to move? said Deborah Simmons in The Washington Times. Rather than “dooming” inner-city kids to lousy public schools in their neighborhoods, the government should give their parents vouchers that would enable them to attend whatever school they chose. In Colorado, said Dan Haley in The Denver Post, parents have been allowed to cross district lines in search of a better public education for 17 years. The state has also aggressively embraced charter schools so as to provide competition and alternatives. What Williams-Bolar did was wrong, but “you shouldn’t have to break the law to get your kid into a better school.”

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