40-year-old Kelly Williams-Bolar lives in a housing project in Akron, Ohio. The local public school that her children were trapped in is one of the worst performing schools in the state. GreatSchools, the country’s leading source of information on school performance, gave Akron City School District a 4/10 rating. Her two girls have no choice in where they go to school, but Kelly wanted something better for them. Now Kelly is facing 10 days in jail, two years of probation, 80 hours of community service and a $30,000 fine. Her crime – in desperation to give her children a better education, she gave false information to a school district in order to enroll them in a different school, Copley-Fairlawn, where children are excelling. Reading proficiency is 30% higher than Akron, math is 32% higher, and GreatSchools gave Copley-Fairlawn City School District a 9/10 rating.
There’s a certain irony that this story appeared in newspapers across the country during National School Choice Week. It provides a fitting example of what can happen when parents don’t have the freedom to choose the best education option for their children. In the United States, a child’s future should not be determined by their zip code. Why shouldn’t mothers like Kelly have the right to choose a better education for their children? The status quo in America’s K-12 education system is not acceptable. Entrenched education bureaucracies and education union bosses have kept real education reform off the table for far too long. But perhaps that’s about to change. Recent elections have produced several choice-friendly state legislatures, and with reform oriented governors, that could provide a tipping point for educational choice. Most notable are Florida, Indiana and South Carolina.
Political commentator Dick Morris has been travelling across the country this week on an Education Revolution Tour to bring attention to the need for school choice. Morris claims the education system is the only remnant of true socialism in America. The analogy is apropos when one considers the dominate control government maintains over public schools, resulting in a clear lack of choice, lack of freedom and lack of achievement.
But there is hope for America’s public schools, and history provides a valuable lesson. In the 1980s, the Soviet Union posed a grave threat to America’s freedom and security. Looking back, it’s hard to believe that just twenty years ago the communist Soviet Union crumbled. Things can change quickly—but only once meaningful reform is implemented. That’s exactly what happened in the Soviet Union.