“Our” Rosa Parks moment?

Single parent Kelly Williams-Bolar has just been released from jail after serving 9 days for her felony conviction for falsifying public records. The falsification consisted of her lying about her address, stating that she lived 2 miles from her actual home, to get her children into a better school district. Her conviction initially yielded a 5-year prison term, which the judge thankfully immediately reduced to 10 days, including time served. You can read more of the story here, but I want to highlight two statements from the article.

Dan Domenech, of the American Association of School Administrators: “The correlation between student achievement and zip code is 100 percent,” he says. “The quality of education you receive is entirely predictable based on where you live.”

Bob Dyer, who lives in Copley – the town Ms. Bolar claimed to reside in: “I pay a lot of money in property taxes, 53 percent of which go to the schools, and I want that money to go to people who live in the district.”

I understand, and sympathize, with both of these views.

I paid what I paid for my tiny little house so my children could be in one of the best school districts in the city in which I live.

But should this be so?

Is it right that the quality of education in schools governed by the state’s curriculum guidelines and granted the same amount of money per child (theoretically, at least) from the state treasury varies so widely from one district to another?

Is it right to state that I want the taxes I pay to benefit only the people who live in my district? Bob Dyer isn’t even claiming that he wants the money he pays in taxes to benefit his children directly, but the children in his district. I don’t know if he even has children. But does he live in an enclosed, isolated community; one in which he never encounters any hapless soul who was unlucky enough to be educated elsewhere? And if we are going to make this argument, can’t we make the argument that only people who have children should be paying the portion of their taxes which support schools? We ALL pay taxes to support schools because we recognize that having an educated populace is good for everyone — a socialist idea if there ever was one. Can we actually say that everyone should be educated, but only the children in our district deserve to be educated well?

I don’t know what the answer is, but I’m sure there isn’t an easy one. I know we are all “in it” for ourselves, that our ambitions and efforts and the discipline which we impose on ourselves to succeed comes from blatant self-interest and the desired preservation of the health and well-being of our friends and families. What I wish is that more people could recognize that what’s good for everyone IS what’s best for each of us.


2 Responses to ““Our” Rosa Parks moment?”

  1. January 29, 2011 at 12:15 pm

    This is a terrible disgrace for this country. A child cannot help where they live. Every child deserves the same edcuation. Why are we not there yet?! Whats so hard about this? The tax money shouldn’t go to districts, it should be spread evenly and fairly. People lie about where they live all the time for this reason. And it’s big circle. The mother can’t live in the better school district because she didn’t have the better education that would have helped her get a better job that would allow her to live in the better district. Now her kids won’t either. And so on.

  2. January 30, 2011 at 5:35 pm

    Where I live (Australia) public schools get similar amounts of money regardless of where they are, but there are still differences between schools that are perceived to be large enough that people lie about their residence to gain entry to a particular school. The differences are very often due to socio-economic class factors but not necessarily directly related to how much money the school has. It’s just that social groups which put a high value on academic success tend to produce children who do well academically (surprise!). So when such a social group exists (perhaps partly due to economic status, but not exclusively) and they send their kids to the local school, that school gets a reputation for having kids do well academically. Then other parents, from out of that area, who also want their kids to do well academically either move into that area or lie and say they do live there so their children can attend the supposedly better school. Of course, it’s not that the school has better resources or teachers, but it’s the children’s peers that make the big difference.

    We have huge inequalities between publicly funded schools, but I’d guess that school funding by the government has little to do with it. It’s mostly related to non-school socio-economic inequalities between regions. I suppose family income would be the best single measure of that inequality but the (linked to income) expectation for the children’s future has a powerful effect on the educational environment. I’m not sure that providing a lot more money to schools in low income areas would lead to big improvements in educational outcomes.

    I’m afraid I’m pretty pessimistic about the chance of achieving real educational equality in either Australia or America.

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