“How did this parent end up in jail?” (salon.com)

With the conservative push towards making schools compete in an educational marketplace, should we be surprised that a parent would do something like this in order to get her children into the best possible school?

Kelley Williams-Bolar is giving a speech in the dark. The Ohio mom is rattling off the standard remarks she’s delivered in public appearances since being catapulted onto the national stage last year. It’s an unseasonably warm day and the lights in the room are off, her face lit only by the glow of the computer screen in her father’s home. The address on the door outside is the one she used on her now-famous falsified documents—the ones that landed her in jail for nine days for illegally enrolling her daughters in a neighboring public school district.

“First, I talk about how I received my indictments, and then I give the laundry list of stipulations for my probation,” says Williams-Bolar, who is halfway through her two-year sentence. The 42-year-old single mother, with an otherwise spotless criminal record, is not allowed to drink, must submit to drug tests and reports monthly to a probation officer. She had to perform 80 hours of community service and pay $800 in restitution, as well as the cost of Summit County’s prosecution against her.

“I had to do a DNA test and swab my cheek like I was a bank robber,” Williams-Bolar says. She reaches for the letter outlining the terms of her probation. “I start with this everywhere I go, because I don’t ever want this to happen to another parent.”

As she moves into the rest of her speech, her voice, already warm and friendly, slows into a smooth, practiced delivery. Her remarks are broad but forceful. She calls for an end to educational inequality and the policies that landed her in jail. She wants more choices for parents whose kids are stuck in under-performing or unsafe schools. In February, she announced the formation of the Ohio Parents Union, part of a growing national network dedicated to giving parents exactly that kind of power. In the past year, Kelley Williams-Bolar has morphed from a desperate mom to an impassioned activist at the center of one of the nation’s most talked about shifts in education reform: the rapidly expanding role of parents in shaping dramatic overhauls of public schools.

The rest of the story can be found here.

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Filed under Funding, Independent School Districts

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