Black America’s Education Crisis

In January, Kelley Williams-Bolar served nine days in jail and was sentenced to two years of probation after being convicted of grand theft and two felony counts of falsifying records. Her crime? Sending her children to a school four miles outside her district of residence in Akron, Ohio.

The divorced mother of two says she falsified school documents because she was concerned about the safety of her two young daughters. “I wanted them to stay at my father’s after school,” she says. “I didn’t want my girls going home to an empty apartment that had recently been burglarized.” She says her decision to enroll her daughters in the Copley-Fairlawn school district wasn’t because the schools her daughters would have attended in 2006 had received a ranking of “Academic Watch,” the state’s second-lowest ranking, in 2008, or because Copley-Fairlawn had merited the state’s top rating, “Excellent with Distinction.”

Yet in this era of achievement gaps, education reform, and education budget cuts, Williams-Bolar’s story caught the attention of people nationwide who either rallied for her acquittal or applauded her punishment. Seemingly overnight she became an unwitting symbol of the nation’s glaring educational inequities, the powerlessness of the poor, and the four-mile chasm that separates “Excellent with Distinction” from “Academic Watch.”

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