Perhaps you’ve heard about Kelley Williams-Bolar, the Ohio mother who was recently tried and convicted for falsifying residency records so her daughters could attend a better school where they would receive a quality education.
The “better school” hired a private investigator to prove that Williams-Bolar’s children lived outside the district. As a result, she received a 10-day jail sentence, three years of probation, and a criminal record (two third-degree felonies) that will haunt her for the rest of her working life.
All this happened simply because Williams-Bolar wanted her children to receive a decent education.
Yes, she broke the law and was punished. On strict legal grounds, that was the correct course of action.
But in the broader sense of right and wrong, what happened to Williams-Bolar is an outrage – possibly of game-changing proportions—and should serve as a wakeup call for Americans about the need for bold, substantial school choice laws throughout the country.
When National Public Radio called for my reaction, I compared her to Rosa Parks, the African-American woman who refused to move to the back of the bus when a white passenger needed a seat.
Since Williams-Bolar is also African-American, some seized on this comparison and began making this a story about race. But let me be very clear: this is not about race, this is about injustice.
If this Ohio story becomes just about Williams-Bolar’s race, it would obscure the fact that children of all colors are trapped in crappy schools, simply because of their zip code. And condemning children to a lousy school solely because they have the wrong zip code is a great injustice.
There’s a deeper reason I compare this Ohio mother to the civil rights matriarch. After Rosa Parks was arrested and fined for refusing to move to the back of the bus, Martin Luther King organized the Montgomery Bus Boycott. For one year, African-Americans refused to use the busses, choosing to walk or share rides instead.
We tend to think that Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat and –bam!—people recognized the injustice and it was immediately corrected. In reality, Park’s stand was the first step in a lengthy and difficult process that eventually brought justice and a greater measure of equality. It took a lot of hard work and many uncomfortable moments.
Kelley Williams-Bolar, a single mother whose concern for her daughters’ future was so great that it led her to break the law, has put a human face on school choice cause. Now it is up to education reformers to share her story and bring the case for school choice to the country.
What makes the Williams-Bolar case even more powerful is that it occurred during the first annual National School Choice Week, a time in which parents, children, advocates and concerned citizens came together to highlight the need for school choice.
Many American families are trapped in desperate education situations, and they are hungry for school choice. The drastic action Williams-Bolar took to save her kids might be the tipping point in the cause, but only if reformers seize this moment.