Education Inequality

August 2, 2011
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Obscured by decades of controversy, school choice and school zoning have been both a blessing and a curse for parents and their students. For one thing, school districts allow the freedom for children to choose certain schools in their neighborhood, each fostering distinct and unique characteristics. However, this selective seclusion can also cause abysmal feelings of racial, financial, communal, and educational inequality. This privation has resulted in lawsuits, soaring dropout rates, and zoning fraud.

One such story of a mother blinded by ambition and a maternal duty to her two children is of Ohio resident Kelley Williams-Bolar who was sentenced to ten days in jail and an additional three years probation after sending her daughters to a school that was not in their housing district. The mother, who lives with her children in a poor, crime-ridden part of the city, says she sent her girls to the wrong school so they could receive a better education. The single mom, who was studying to become a teacher so she could further develop her children’s education, has also lost any chance of a degree in the education field in the state of Ohio as a result of a individual decision made by the judge who was arbitrating her case. Kelley Williams-Bolar and her father, who agreed to allow his daughter to list her address as his own in order for Ms. Williams-Bolar’s daughters to be allowed to attend the school in her father’s district, are being convicted on two counts of tampering with court records after Kelley listed her father as her daughter’s primary caregivers. Mr. Williams-Bolar is consequently also being charged with fourth-degree felony of grand theft, after he and his daughter were found guilty of defrauding the school system for two years of educational services for their girls. The court determined that sending their children to the wrong school was worth $30,500 in tuition.

This case is a prime example of intradistrict choice, a system in which parents are restricted to choose only schools in their housing districts, as well as controlled choice, which allows the same constraints but choices can be limited to a degree as to ensure the racial, gender, and socioeconomic balance of each school. The problem is that, contradictory to the incessant claims of our national educational sysmtes, schools are run like businesses. Competition and the urgency to annually meet higher education and testing requirements has pushed many schools into tight spots. Charter schools, for example, are publicly sponsored schools that are substantially free of direct administrative control by the government, but are held accountable for achieving certain levels of student performance. Such pressure has caused teachers to allow students to cheat on standard based testing, greatly lower classroom workflow to guarantee the needed amount of passing students and graduates, and budget cuts of resources, programs offered, and teachers.

Is it fair to allow some students the ability to receive a better education than another student just because one lives in a different part of town? Our constitution and democratic nature would say no. However, both are being greatly undermined by the institution of school zones. If students are not granted a certain level of education and are, thus, unsatisfied by their current education, chances are that they will dropout. America loses hundreds of billions of dollars each year when young people drop out of high school because of lost productivity and tax revenues. Not only that but crime and civil unrest have been found to increase as dropout rates rise. A one-year increase in average years of schooling for dropouts would reduce murder and assault rates by almost 30%, motor vehicle theft by 20%, arson by 13%, and burglary and larceny by about 6%.

High school and college dropouts make far less money than those who attended higher education. High schools dropouts will earn approximately $260,000 less than those who graduated and $800,000 less than college graduates in their lifetime. And with a decrease of seven million college-educated workers in the United States by 2012, that’s a drop in money flow and circulation and a huge downfall on the economy. With no money and a lousy economy, the nation slowly fails. And with the current state of schools, a decrease in budget will result in unemployed teachers and the shutdown of schools. While about a quarter o public schools report at least one type of onsite building in less than adequate condition, four out of ten reported at least one unsatisfactory environmental condition. A shortage of money is the last thing they need.

It has been proven through repeated history that education also produces a generation who is involved and invested in politics and society. College graduates are three times more likely to vote than high school dropouts, and those who earn more are far more likely to be affiliated with a political organization. Again, this suggests the business-run nature of schools. Schools create educated individuals who go on to make money and stabilize the nation’s economy. If the school does not produce adequate students, the cyclic flow is disturbed. In other words, in order for a nation to sustain itself, it needs individuals who are taught in the areas that their nation deems important and creates an independent economy.

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