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Activists: Penalties for 'Education Theft,' 'Enrollment Fraud' Too Harsh

Education Activists Speak Out Against 'Education Theft' and 'Enrollment Fraud'

Education activists are speaking out against the practice of holding parents criminally responsible for lying about their children living in better school districts in order to in turn send them to better schools.

Known lately as "education theft" and also "enrollment fraud," education and parent advocates are speaking out against the harsh penalties parents face in attempting to send their children to better schools, and resorting to forging documents and lying about residency to do so.

"Jonah Edelman, the CEO of Stand for Children, a national education advocacy group, says that his group does not condone parents breaking the law. 'But the real crime, which needs to be prosecuted, is the glaring inequity in the quality of schools in rich areas versus poor ones," according to the Hechinger Report.

Two parents in Pennsylvania found out the hard way just how seriously states take 'education theft.'

Last year, Hamlet Garcia and his wife Olesia went on trial for "stealing an education for their 8-year-old daughter, Fiorella," according to the article. The couple was accused of lying about where their daughter was permanently living in order to send her to a sought-after elementary school out of the struggling school district they really lived in.

Garcia's maximum sentence carried a prison term of seven years.

Although the Garcias managed to avoid jail time by accepting a plea bargain and " agreeing to pay the district close to $11,000 in back tuition," not all parents accused to education theft have been as lucky.

"In 2011, Kelley Williams-Bolar, a special education aide in Akron, Ohio, was convicted of records tampering and spent nine days in jail for sending her two daughters to a school in the high-performing school district in which her father lived," the article said.

Parent advocates and education activists across the country are urging states to reconsider treating concerned parents as criminals who should be punished.

"Parent rights organizations that seek to protect parents from discriminatory actions say they are increasingly finding themselves advocating for parents who have been targeted and — in some cases — harassed by school districts that are cracking down in ways that can seem overly aggressive and sometimes predatory," according to the article.

In addition, parent groups in several states are pushing for bills that ban jail time for parents "caught lying about their addresses to send their children to better schools." In 2013, a similar law was enacted in Connecticut and could be the case soon for Ohio and Pennsylvania.

While "[s]chool and county officials contend that they are protecting taxpayers from thieves ... parent advocates say this is a civil rights issue and the real crime is the disparity between wealthy districts and poor ones."

Read the full article here and comment below.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor


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