Speaking of Women's Rights: The 3 R's: Readin', Writin', and Educational Redlining

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The 3 R's: Readin', Writin', and Educational Redlining

In theory (and often in nauseatingly hypocritical rhetoric) we in the United States want all children to receive a good education. In fact, in Washington the education of children is the state’s "paramount duty," though its fulfillment of that duty is certainly debatable.

Yet, with most states facing massive budget deficits likely to extend for several more years, legislators and governors are scrambling to cut spending, and education is a common victim of the budget axe.

Too often overlooked in this disturbing and disheartening discussion is something equally troubling: the wide disparity in the quality of education provided to children in different school districts, and even between different schools in the same district. Though it’s been 55 years since the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed racial segregation in schools, we cannot escape the fact that schools attended primarily by students of color and poor students continue to lag behind those attended primarily by white students in academic achievement across virtually all subjects.

Which is why I was so appalled and saddened at the news that a judge in Cleveland has sentenced a mother to jail for altering school records so her children could attend in a different district. Appalled and saddened, but not surprised. First, the mother is African-American and the district into which she sought to place her children is predominantly white, and apparently wealthier. Why wouldn’t she want the best possible education for her kids? Don’t you want that for yours? For all kids? That’s the promise of universal compulsory education, or it was at one time.

Second, she’s African-American and relatively poor, so of course the legal system hammered her. No need to elaborate on that, I trust. Except to say that now she’ll be even poorer, as her dream to become a teacher will be destroyed by the felony conviction. Yes, she broke the law. No, she shouldn't have done it. Yes, the system and the judge almost certainly discriminated against her.

What’s more, the judge found that sending the students to the wrong school ‘cost’ the district $30,500. And how much was ‘saved’ because the children did not attend it? I’m guessing it’s not $30K, because chances are their home district does not have as much to spend per student.

So when we look at proposed budget cuts, weigh them in the context of “Only Some Children Left Behind”, and, I hope, act out our values through our spending, think of Ms. Williams-Bolar, spending her time behind bars, repenting her ‘crime.’ And then think again.