Separate and Unequal

Speaking of spirituality and people being thrown into rivers…

I came across this article today about a woman who has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for stealing public education.

“McDowell was homeless when she was charged with felony larceny last year. Authorities allege she enrolled her son in kindergarten in Norwalk using a babysitter’s address when he should have attended Bridgeport schools, where her last permanent address was.”

So, she’s going to prison. That’s gonna really help educate her son. What he’s going to learn is that you get the education you can pay for, by where you live which often has to do with the color of your skin or what privilege you came into this world with. If our public schools were all healthy and funded well, I bet this situation wouldn’t have happened. Separate but unequal is in full force in the US, just ask me about my own school district.

Some people steal because they are jerks and just want things. Some people “steal” because there are no options to help their kids. This is a nasty situation, and it’s systemic and ugly and we should be ashamed as a nation that this is what is happening to our kids and to parents who are trying anything to make things better for them.

As I was following this story on FB and Twitter, within moments one of the writers I follow posted this piece from last year, when the story first broke. Tressie McMillan Cottom wrote this for the Huffington Post and my god, if it’s not one of the most amazing and depressing and heartbreaking takes on public education I’ve read in a long time. She’s brilliant, so follow her.

“Last year a mother in Ohio became the first of several high-profile cases of parents being jailed for defrauding the school system when she used her father’s address to enroll her child in a better school.

Last month, parents Hamlet Garcia and Olesia Garcia of Philadelphia were arrested for “theft of services” in Philadelphia, also for sending their child to a school in a wealthier, neighboring district.

At the start of this new school year the Atlanta Public School system issued notices to parents that investigations would be conducted to confirm if students were enrolled in the correct school. A grace period was being offered. If parents turned themselves in before the investigation began they would not receive “punishment.” That included fines, restitution and possible jail time.”

I’ll note that the people listed in her article who were arrested were of color. As someone who has the middle class position and white skin to move if not mountains, then heavy stones for my own children, let me tell you I really doubt they are out arresting white people for moving their kids into better schools or athletic programs. There is racism and classism written all over these cases and it’s a total shame. It taints us all.

I’ll leave you with this last section from McMillan Cottom’s article

“The structure of school funding creates an unavoidable tension between how these parents love their own kids — by giving them the best they can afford — and the limits of how other, less wealthy parents, are able to love their kids because of what they cannot afford.

It’s a quandary. How does one do right by others while honoring their biological and moral responsibility to do best by their own children? Just as bureaucracies create rules, regulations, and punishments that reinforce inequality, bureaucracies can be used to disrupt inequality. That is what government, at its best, should do: work for the good of the collective when individuals cannot or will not.”

Damn. Yes. That is truth right there.

And is this what we really believe in in America? That money = the love you can show your children? That we have to buy our way into support, basic education and health care (not even mentioned here)? That economic segregation is right and just?

We are failing. Completely and utterly if this is the case.


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One response to “Separate and Unequal

  1. Pingback: Who Ends Up Being Prosecuted for 'Stealing' Public Education? | RH Reality Check

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