Feb 28, 2012

I literally am sitting at my desk with tears in my eyes as I type this article.  I don't think  I have felt this much shame about being an American since the execution of Troy Davis.  It is times like these I am reminded that no matter how noble our written intentions are in the Constitution, our system is really only as "good" as the people who run it.

If you don't know the story of Tanya  McDowell she made headlines last year when she was arrested for using a friend's address to send her son to a school in a better neighborhood.  At the time, McDowell was homeless but wanted her son to have access to a quality education.

Now before we look at her particular case, I have to tell you all that yesterday salon.com ran an article about Presidential candidate Rick Santorum.  During his stomp for the Republican nomination, Santorum has frequently referenced the fact that his wife home schools their seven children.  Well according to this article, the State of PA picked up part of the tab to home school his children even though his family resided in Virginia at the time.  The article went on to characterize Santorum's behavior as unethical but not quite illegal.  The school district in PA, which tried to recover its money from Santorum, spent two hundred thousand dollars buying computers, software etc for five of the Santorum children for three years.  Oh by the way, Santorum refused to repay the money and the State of PA eventually picked up the tab(what was that again about not making Black people rich by giving them other people's money?).

So this man can lie about his state of residency and use funds from another state to educate his children and NOTHING happens to him but a poor, homeless, mother wants to use someone else's address to send her child to the best school district in her area and it's considered theft of education??? Please tell me I am not the only person who sees something wrong with this scenario.

The basic premise used to charge Tanya McDowell for theft is that the school districts are allotted their budgets based on property taxes, etc and the money is then divided and allocated to different school districts.  They say that by sending her son to a more affluent school district she basically stole the money that was allotted for the education of children who really lived in that district.

Now I guess because they put it in legal terms they think that we have to accept it...Well I don't In fact, I think it's complete BS... First of all not everyone who lives in the district pays property taxes.  For instance, I am under the impression that the friend's address that she used lives in an apartment (it has been described as such in news articles).  If you rent an apartment or a house for that matter in the school district, you do not pay property taxes.  So if you rent a house in the area zoned for the school, are you stealing an education??

Secondly, the Supreme Court has already determined that a primary education is a fundamental right that even illegal aliens are entitled to have.  So illegal immigrants can be educated in the public schools of their choice, but this legal citizen can't choose to send her child to a school in a better area?? Lastly, this woman, by all accounts, was homeless.  If she has no residency, how can you prove that she did not live in the school district?? What if she slept in a homeless shelter in that school district for a week, can her son attend school there then??

I really fear the precedent that this case set.  I understand her lawyer's argument that he had to look out for the best interest of his client and that in this case, the plea deal was her best option... But I shudder to think what this means for the rest of us... Can we say slippery slope??

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