Kelly Williams-Bolar of Ohio was sentenced to 10 days in jail and placed on three year’s probation for sending her kids to a school district in which they did not live. She was convicted before a jury of felony tampering with court records after registering her two girls as living with her father, who lives in a more affluent neighborhood, when they actually lived with her, in a housing project in Akron. Her father, Edward L. Williams, was charged with fourth-degree felony grand theft for stealing two years of educational services for their girls. The court determined that sending their girls to the wrong school was worth $30,500.
The courts neglected to subtract out the value of the education the girls would have received at their assigned school, which was likely much less than $30,000. Even so, this case clearly reveals the role of education as a mechanism for reproducing and maintaining existing social relations, contrary to the myth that it is the “great equalizer.” Better schools are worth more precisely because they exist in communities where families make more money, (even if they pay lower property tax rates there), and consequently pump out higher numbers of successful graduates. They have more resources, more active parent organizations and more effective fund-raising. These are the schools that produce the future bosses and CEOs. Lower income children are not wanted at these schools, not only out of fear that they would bring down test scores and take away resources and privileges from the well off kids, but because the system must regenerate low level and unskilled laborers, as well as future bosses and CEOs.
Ironically, Williams-Bolar had been in school studying to become a teacher herself, so she could provide a better life for her kids. Under Ohio law, she is now forbidden from receiving her teaching credential, as Ohio bans convicts from teaching. We certainly wouldn’t want someone like her corrupting our youth, now, would we?
Angus Johnston, of Student Activism, wrote, “I live in New York City, where school placement is a bit of an obsession. This kind of gaming of the system is rampant among well-off white families here, and I’ve never heard of anyone being jailed for it—much less convicted of a felony.”
The situation in California is similar. Competition is fierce, especially in cities like San Francisco, and a variety of scams are common to ensure that privileged kids get into the better schools. Rarely do any middle class parents get busted, let alone have serious consequences. The result is a virtual Apartheid system, where the schools west of Twin Peaks tend to have much affluent students and higher test scores than those that are east of Twin Peaks.