Earlier this year Tanya McDowell, the Bridgeport, Connecticut, mother accused of fraudulently enrolling her son in a Norwalk school, was sentenced to prison and must pay $6,200 to the city of Norwalk for stealing a better education for her son.
The case parallels a similar one in Ohio.
These cases, tragic for the people involved, are useful from a public policy point of view in that they underline the inequities of school finance and the consequences for children of those inequities. The community or neighborhood in which children live is in a large part dependent on their family’s income and the quality of the education offered by local schools is in large part associated with the wealth, or lack of it, of the families in their school district.
Family income in this country is associated with race and ethnicity. In most places most Black and Latino families are poorer than most White, non-Latino families.
There are wide disparities in local revenue for education in Connecticut, disparities that, in general, correspond to the level of minority enrollments: districts with a greater percentage of minorities have fewer resources than those with lesser percentages of minorities.
Graduation rates in Connecticut parallel revenue available for schools. Bridgeport's graduation rate is 53%; Norwalk's 88%.
School districts with more Black and Latino families have less money to spend on their children’s education. Those districts with less money have poorer educational outcomes. Given this, one might say that both Ms. McDowell and Norwalk acted rationally. Ms. McDowell, like any parent, wanted the best possible education for her son. Norwalk . . . well, Norwalk acted in accordance with the law.
An extended version of this blog was published on February 29th on the Opportunity to Learn Campaign blog series: http://www.otlcampaign.org/...