Don't Make Parents Choose Between Finding a Better School & Obeying the Law

During last week’s National School Choice Week emerged a sad, dramatic story that made the case for school choice better than many policy papers could. I’m finally getting around to commenting on the case of Ohio’s Kelley Williams-Bolar, who was charged with a felony for falsifying papers to enroll her daughter in a different school district where she would be safer.

For someone like me living in Colorado, with a strong (but not perfect) open enrollment law, the first reaction was: You have to lie to get your kid into another school district? It’s very sad that some K-12 systems can be so backward and unresponsive, but it’s symptomatic of a larger problem. Using a real-life example, Adam Emerson notes on the RedefinED blog that a tuition tax credit program like the one in Florida also easily would enable a mom to find a safer schooling option without breaking the law.

According to one story I read, the school district where her daughter was attending wants her to repay $30,000. Are you kidding me? Did they really spend that much to investigate where the mom really lived? Maybe they have a magical money tree growing there, too….

Jay Greene makes a basic case of compare and contrast to ask the powerful rhetorical question: “Who’s the Criminal?” Indeed. Opinion writers on the Left and on the Right make the case that Williams-Bolar could become a modern-day Rosa Parks — though for somewhat different causes.

In any case, it’s an outrage. I just happen to agree with Dr. Kevin Chavous, president of the Black Alliance for Educational Options, that the mistreated Ohio mom’s case once again demonstrates how “parental choice is the most pressing civil rights issue of our time.”