What made a low-income African American single mother risk jail time in Ohio? Akron resident Kelley Williams-Bolar recently served nine days in prison after a felony conviction. She used her father’s home address to send her children to a neighboring school district. She says she feared for her kids’ safety in their neighborhood and wanted them to get a good education.
Overnight, Kelley Williams-Bolar became a symbol of the desperation of low-income and minority parents who believe their local public school districts are failing their children. The outrage spans the political spectrum. An online petition for her pardon has 85,000 signatures. Governor John Kasich’s lawyers are investigating the harshness of her sentence. Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. asked the U.S. Attorney General to intervene on her behalf. Editorials for The Washington Post and National Public Radio have referred to this as a “Rosa Parks moment for education.”
One commentator explains the anger: “The correlation between student achievement and zip code is 100 percent….The quality of education you receive is entirely predictable based on where you live.” This is why low-income and minority parents increasingly demand school choice.
Ironically, Kelley Williams-Bolar left prison during National School Choice Week. Every child should have the chance to receive a decent education, and low-income parents shouldn’t have to break the law to protect and educate their children. For more information about how school choice can benefit all children, visit SchoolChoiceWeek.com and Cascade Policy Institute.
Kathryn Hickok is Director of the Children’s Scholarship Fund-Portland, which provides partial tuition scholarships to Oregon elementary students from lower-income families.