- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 27, 2011

Kelley Williams-Bolar is a prime example of the good and the bad regarding school choice.

An Akron, Ohio, mother of two daughters, she lied about her residency in order to enroll her girls in a better school, and her actions landed her in jail. The girls’ granddad might wind up there as well because he aided her.

ZIP code politics shouldn’t limit parents’ options.

If tuition vouchers had been available to Ms. Williams-Bolar, a teaching assistant who lives in public housing, she would have been in the position to opt her daughters into a quality public school. Instead, she saw breaking the law as her only option.

President Obama and other politicians who oppose public tuition vouchers owe Ms. Williams-Bolar a public apology.

The president understands her dilemma. He conceded as much back in September, when a Florida teacher asked him a question during an interview with Matt Lauer of “The Today Show.”

And now that Congress is pondering legislation to broaden school choice, Mr. Obama would honor struggling families by signing up.

During the Lauer interview, Kelly Burnette, a teacher in Nassau County, Fla., asked the president whether he thought his own daughters, Malia and Sasha, “would get the same high-quality, rigorous education in a D.C. public school as compared to the very elite private academy that they’re attending now.”

After thanking her for the question, Mr. Obama answered “no” and pointed out that “connections” and residency dictate school-choice options.

“I’ll be blunt with you,” Mr. Obama replied. “The answer is no right now. The D.C. public school systems are struggling. Now, they have made some important strides over the last several years to move in the direction of reform.

“There are some terrific individual schools in the D.C. system. And that’s true, by the way, in every city across the country. …

“I’ll be very honest with you. Given my position, if I wanted to find a great public school for Malia and Sasha to be in, we could probably maneuver to do it. But the broader problem is for a mom or a dad who are working hard but don’t have a bunch of connections, don’t have a lot of choice in terms of where they live. … [T]hey should be getting the same quality education for their kids as anybody else. And we don’t have that yet.”

No, we don’t, Mr. President, but the 112th Congress is looking forward to working with you to solve that dilemma.

Just this week, Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate introduced legislation that would resuscitate the D.C. OpportunityScholarship Program that Democrats, including Mr. Obama, sucked the life out of in 2009.

“There’s only one program in America where the federal government allows parents from lower-income families to choose the schools that are best for their children, and it’s right here in D.C.,” House Speaker John A. Boehner, a native Ohioan, said Wednesday. “The D.C. program provides a model that I believe can work well in other communities around the nation — it should be expanded, not ended. If we’re serious about bipartisan education reform, then this bipartisan education bill should be the starting point.”

Allow me this reiteration: A model for “other communities around the nation.”

As the president said, children shouldn’t be doomed to attend lousy public schools just because of “where they live.”

We can’t get around the fact that Ms. Williams-Bolar broke the law in seeking the means to a better life for her daughters. She committed a crime and has done her time.

But what about her girls and the untold numbers of other low-income boys and girls languishing in troubled schools while inside-the-Beltway powerbrokers tussle over dollar signs?

It’s cheaper to provide vouchers to school children, regardless of ZIP code, than to continue shortchanging them by financing the status quo.

Deborah Simmons can be reached at ds[email protected]

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide