By: Ellen Albritton
In class on Thursday we discussed the social cooperation of public education, as well as the rights and responsibilities, the advantages and disadvantages, and some of the resulting inequalities surrounding it. This is an interesting story about what some parents feel they must do in order to help their children escape the trap of underfunded, underperforming schools that do not offer anywhere near the amount of opportunities that schools in a wealthier area can provide to their students. The mother in this story has been charged with the felony of tampering with official records because she allegedly falsified her address so that her children could attend a school that was much better than the one near the housing project in which she lived.
This woman now has a criminal record because she broke a law in pursuit of an education for her children that would provide them with better college and job prospects, in a safe environment that would expose them to a wider variety of educational tools that would enrich their lives. In short, she did this so her children could enjoy many of the benefits of the social cooperation of education we listed in class. She felt she had to do this because the duties and responsibilities that are a part of public education—teachers, funding, facilities, etc,–were not of sufficient quality. For me it is easy to both sympathize and empathize with this mother, and I am sure that many parents would do the same if they found themselves in this same desperate situation.
Some people who have commented and written about this case have also raised questions about the role race may have played in this situation. Their argument is that during the same period in question, dozens of others families have had similar residency discrepancies, yet this is the first one to result in any criminal charges. Does the fact that this mother in question is black, while the school district is mostly white, have anything to do with that? Did the parents of students that reside in the wealthier area put any pressure on school officials to investigate certain residency issues because they felt their community was being compromised by “outsiders” to their community? While the answer to these particular questions may never be known, we do know that racial, ethnic, and language minorities make up a disproportionate number of the children currently attending under-funded and under-performing schools, and that as a result, these children’s opportunities are often constrained for the remainder of their lives.
We also know that one’s level of education is a major factor in determining one’s health and that the educational attainment of a mother has a dramatic influence on the overall level of well-being for her children. So how do we as public health practitioners address the issue of educational injustice? Is it enough to implement mentoring and tutoring programs to help kids “catch-up?” Or should we take it even further “upstream” and reform the tax system and the way our schools are funded?