BROOKLYN, NY (Workers World Today) — It’s not a common phenomenon for parents to be given jail time for sending their children to a different school district, but the case pinned against Tanya McDowell is an example of how “stealing an education” is a crime that seems to solely affect lower-class people of color.
Actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Hoffman along with at least 48 others were caught in a college admissions scandal earlier this year that sparked outrage in the community over the privileged upper class white Americans have concerning education. When compared to the lengths McDowell took to ensure her son could have the best education possible regardless of the economic problems they have experienced, Loughlin, Hoffman, and many others have done much worse and had taken laughably extreme lengths to cheat their children’s way into a school they couldn’t have gotten into on their own if they tried. Although those involved in the scandal deserve a much harsher punishment, a single mother was sentenced to over 5 years for wanting to put her son in a better public school than one that was in her district.
The reason McDowell sent her son to one school over the schools available in her registered district is obvious to those who have experienced and seen the effects economic segregation has on schools and school districts. It’s no secret that no school is created equal, especially to parents and students in New York City since NYC has one of the most segregated school systems in the country. According to an article by Alex Zimmerman, “New York City distributes some of its school funding through a formula that is designed to give more financial support to schools with greater shares of students with disabilities, who are English learners, or who are struggling academically. But despite some efforts to infuse schools with more resources, the formula has not been fully implemented,” leaving high-need schools with less experienced teachers and less funding for programs.
However, school districts that include mainly high income white students, such as the Brockport district whose middle and high schools are up to 83% white, spend $20,691 per student. That is at least six thousand more dollars spent per student than in most communities with a high amount of people of color.
A way to combat the lack of funding in public schools where minorities reside is to allow open enrollment in New York’s public schools. According to ALEC, “The Open Enrollment Act stipulates that a student may attend any public school or program in the state.” This would make McDowell’s actions of sending her son to a school district she believed would improve her son’s education legal. It would give parents the ability to choose the school that is right for their child’s needs, decrease racial and wealth segregation in schools, and give students who previously would not have had hope that they would get a higher education a chance to learn and prove themselves academically.
However, along with the advantages, there are a few disadvantages to implementing open enrollment in schools. If a particular school is considered popular by people who live within the district as well as outside the district, those particular schools will fill up quickly making it impossible for everyone to be enrolled in the school of their choice. The personal lives of students may also be impacted due to the distance they would have to travel to get to the best school of their choice. The car, subway, or bus ride funds could add up and cause more trouble for some people than the school they go to. The distance from the friends students make in school could also put a damper on their relationships because they will not be able to meet after school or even on weekends of the distance is that great. However, these are all problems that parents could take into consideration when choosing their child’s school and, if they believe these problems won’t affect them, their choice will prove to be more beneficial for themselves and others.