Education in today’s society is a definitive indicator of an individual’s earning potential and social mobility. In light of this reality, parents are constantly searching for ways to provide their children with a quality education that would afford them a greater earning potential and the possibility of upward social mobility. Unfortunately, however, access to a quality education is not equally distributed across all strata of the society.
An Akron, Ohio woman recently made national headlines after she was charged and sentenced for defrauding the neighboring Copley-Fairlawn City Schools of over $30, 000 in her attempt to secure a better quality of education for her two daughters. A comparison of the Copley-Fairlawn City School District’s report card for academic year 2009-2010 to the Akron Public Schools’ report card for the same academic year indicates that Copley-Fairlawn students received better scores in two key achievement areas, reading and mathematics, while Akron students received comparably lower scores in these two achievement areas. Additionally, yearly progress in overall school accountability standards was met by Copley-Fairlawn compared to Akron Public Schools that failed to meet yearly progress.
The inequalities and inequities in the education system necessitate the continuation and expansion of school choice policies. Whether it is the existence of charter schools, voucher programs or urban-suburban programs, school choice policy is needed to allow urban parents opportunities to provide a quality public education for their children. Of course, Kelley Williams-Bolar (accused Akron parent) was found guilty for falsification of government document. But can we villainize her for trying to provide her daughters with an education that is unavailable to them in their home district—an education that is elusive in many urban areas, yet readily available to suburbanites? I am not suggesting here that the laws of the land be flouted. However, I am suggesting that adequate investments be made in school choice policies (eg. urban-suburban programs) that are continuously in danger of termination due to the lack of adequate funding. This should enable urban students, the majority of whom are of a lower socio-economic status, the opportunity to receive a quality public education.
Without attempting to litigate on the legality of Williams-Bolar’s action, it is prudent that we examine the gross inequity between these two neighboring school districts that prompted her to seek a quality education for her children outside of their struggling school district. The present hiatus between Akron and Copley-Fairlawn schools continue to disenfranchise many vulnerable children on the premise of their zip code, despite their parents paying local, state and federal taxes that generally fund schools. I am of the opinion that if Williams-Bolar could have afforded to send her children to a private school, she might have done so, or already voted with her feet for a more effective school district. Can some acts be avoided when one is stripped of choice? Poverty cannot be the reason for a poor education. I wonder what Horace Mann would say about this sad inequity?