Tanya McDowell, the homeless Black Connecticut mother who was charged with felony larceny last year after she was caught lying about her home address so that her 6-year-old could attend an elementary school in a good district, was slapped with a 12-year sentence earlier this month. The Mom, who only wanted her young son to get the best education that she could provide, is also indebted to the state for $6,200. What is the fine for? It is for “stealing” educational services for her child.
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McDowell is just one of countless parents who live in impoverished areas across the country yet still want their children to have a fighting chance at getting an education that is solid.
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The inequalities in education among the haves and have-nots has been the subject of many staunch debates throughout the years. McDowell’s cause célèbre is a clear-cut case that depicts the gaping disparities in both the wealth and quality of education across this country.
Due to the subpar teaching students face in low-income areas, many parents risk imprisonment and fines just so that their children can get an education that can give them a fighting chance at succeeding.
Now some boundary-hopping parents are even relinquishing legal custody of their children to the hands of others, who reside in areas that have better school districts, so that their kids can reap the educational benefits.
“I gave my sister custody of my son,” a Hartford, Connecticut, a woman who asked to remain anonymous, told The Daily. The woman’s sister lives in a nearby school district with better performance scores. “I had to do what I had to do as a Mother.”
Yolanda Miranda, who lives in Rochester, N.Y., gave up her parental rights to her mom, who also lives in a better school district. The 36-year-old woman was initially arrested in 2009 for sending her kids to an out-of-district school. She was charged with grand larceny for “stealing education,” but the charges were reduced to a misdemeanor.
The new trend to keep illegal students from entering better public school districts now involves hiring special investigators. Companies, such as VerifyResidence.com, have agents follow children from school to home to determine if they truly reside at the addresses that they have provided to the schools.
A Queens, New York, Black grandmother talked with NewsOne about a time when district-hopping was a common practice:
“Sending ghetto children to better schools is nothing new, this is a practice that has been around for years. I remember there was plenty of talk back-in-the-day of people in my old neighborhood putting their kids in schools that were in prime neighborhood districts. All you had to do was know someone, mail a letter with your name and address on it to that person’s address, then show that same letter to school officials. It’s only recently that the schools have decided to toughen up and send people to jail, which is a shame. Why should trying to give your child the best education get you jail time?”
What lies beneath all of the crackdowns is no surprise, according to Susan Eaton, research director at the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard Law School. Eaton tells the Daily, “Racial discrimination was at the very root of how these districts were created,” she said. “But no one wants to really open up that discussion again.”