Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Stealing an Education

I read an article in a state newspaper today about a mother who has been arrested for larceny.  Her crime is stealing an education for her son.  It sounds horrifying, doesn't it!  But, what she did is illegal.  She lives in Bridgeport, CT which is a poor city.  She gave a false address so that her son could attend school in Norwalk, CT which is a richer city about 30 minutes away.  (And strangely, there are a couple of richer communities in between the two cities that she could have chosen, with probably better schools, but apparently she was familiar with Norwalk.)

A bit of background - in Connecticut, there is no county government.  School systems are part of the town.  There are a number of regional school districts where two or more towns have chosen to combine all or some of their schools, but the majority of towns have their own school system.  This can result in great disparities between the spending on education and also the quality of the education.  Note that I don't think that there is a complete connection between the level of spending and the quality of education.  One of the problems related to the quality of education is the population.  The home life and parental involvement plays a role in the quality of the education.   With that as a factor, I don't think that even money can equalize the quality of education across district lines.  In Connecticut, there is a grant provided to all school districts called the Equalized Cost Sharing (ECS) grant.  Theoretically it's supposed to somewhat equalize the spending on education.  In reality, it doesn't.  The school district in the town I work for gets a paltry amount in the ECS grant.  Being a wealthy town, sometimes I wonder why we get it at all, but there are almost always some kind of "hold harmless" or "guaranteed minimums" in grants.  And the reality is that if our town wants to spend more than Bridgeport on education, it's a lot easier for the taxpayers to foot the bill.  So, is it fair that students in this town get more money spent on them than in Bridgeport?  People move to specific towns for the quality of education.  Sometimes they even move to specific areas of a town to get to a specific elementary school or high school, based on the perception of the quality of the education compared to the other options.  Isn't that their right?  How do you tell a parent here that they shouldn't spend as much as they want on education because Bridgeport can't spend the same.  Should Bridgeport children be allowed to come to our schools?  What do you tell the taxpayer here then, who is paying a big nut for his house and his taxes and does so to provide his child a better education?  But shouldn't all children have the same opportunities?  It really is a difficult issue.  I have no answers for it, only questions.
Back to the mother who got arrested.  I think arresting her was extreme, but I don't know all the circumstances.  Usually they just kick the kid out of school.  Maybe the fraud in that district is such that they felt they needed to really lower the boom on people.  I don't know.  I do know that she committed a crime and I understand why she did it, but that doesn't make it right.


Brenna said...

My parents did this for me once when we'd moved just a couple of months before the end of my school year. Dad dropped me a few blocks over to a friend's house where I'd hop her bus to school. I wonder if they could have been arrested for those couple of months.

Kate B said...

You know - that made me think of something else on the issue. Our neighbors moved to the next town over (next state over too) towards the end of the school year in 2009. They actually had to sign over guardianship of their daughters to the girls' grandparents temporaritly so that they could finish the school year in our district. It's ridiculous that they had to do that. there should be allowances for your situation and theirs.