The "real crime" is the education gap

Kudos to the Connecticut lawmaker who understands that parents shouldn’t have to choose between breaking the law and securing a quality education for their children.

The real crime, says Rep. Bruce V. Morris, is happening every day in classrooms across that state – where a homeless Bridgeport mother faces felony charges for enrolling her son in a Norwalk school – as failed policies and practices continue to deprive inner-city children of the opportunity to get the same quality of education that is afforded to their suburban peers.

Closing this opportunity gap is critical to stemming the achievement gap that persists in school systems across the country.

“Equal access to education is the civil rights issue of today and it’s something that needs to be addressed across all borders,” he told a Greenwich Time reporter. “Education is the equalizer.”

Tanya McDowell is being prosecuted for stealing nearly $16,000 – the cost of a year of school – from the city of Norwalk. Though her 5-year-old son, A.J., was withdrawn from the school in January, the mother is being charged for the full school year, a move that makes it clear that officials are using her case to make an example, and aren’t remotely interested in treating McDowell’s situation in a just and compassionate way.

McDowell’s supporters, including Morris, agree that the quality of A.J.’s and every other child’s education should not be determined by ZIP code.

What we need now is not well-meaning mothers being dragged into court on felony charges for trying to do what’s best for their children’s educational well-being.

What we need is action in every state to ensure that all children, regardless of where they live, have access to school systems that provide top-notch early childhood education, highly effective and qualified teachers, a college preparatory curriculum, and the best instructional materials available. We commend Rep. Morris for his leadership.

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