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Zip Code Education

At what length would you go to ensure your child gets the best possible education? If the school your address dictates your child must attend isn’t the best school in your area (or is a downright bad school, plenty of those exist in every town) shouldn’t you be able to send your child to a better school a few blocks further? Well many districts say no.

Many districts throughout the country have created incredibly strict zoning policies, which prevent children from attending schools in neighborhoods outside their own. In theory I can understand why these policies were put place, which is basically to make sure the taxes homeowners pay go towards helping the students and schools in their neighborhood.

Thanks to these zoning policies what is now happening is that that poor children are tied to the failing schools in their neighborhoods with no options for a better education at a better school in a different neighborhood. According to the website Dropout Nation, “While poor and minority families suffer the most by being shackled to failure mills in their neighborhoods, middle class families (especially those who are minority or the first in their generation to achieve such status) suffer almost equally as badly, often restricted to warehouses of mediocrity whose shiny new buildings hide laggard instruction and low expectations for poor white, black and Latino kids.”

Though zoning policies aren’t exactly new, what IS new are the stiffer penalties for parents who lie about their addresses to help put their children in better schools.

One of the most high profile cases that have made the news recently involves a mom; Tanya McDowell in Bridgeport, CT. 
Last year McDowell and her son were homeless and living out of a van. She 
enrolled her son in the Norwalk City School District (using his babysitter’s address). McDowell was arrested and charged with first-degree larceny and conspiracy to commit first-degree larceny and is facing up to 12 years in prison (though some of that is due to unrelated drug charges). 
McDowell is not the only one being penalized for the fraud.

The Norwalk Housing Authority evicted Ana Marquez, the babysitter who allowed McDowell the use of her address, for fraud. Also, the Department of Children and Family Services removed Marquez’s two children for a week. The Marquez family was then left homeless, having to shuffle from shelter to shelter for months. The housing authority seized Marquez’s household belongings and as of this writing still has not returned them.

All because they were trying to give McDowell’s son a better education and in turn a better shot at life.

I consider myself blessed to live in a neighborhood with a wonderful school. But we have faced the possibility of having to move a few short blocks away where we would no longer be in the same zone. Would I lie if the possibility presented itself to me to keep my kids in the same school?

Yes, yes I would.

I think that it’s time for schools to rethink their zoning policies. And instead of the effort being put into to monitoring and punishing the people who abuse them, efforts should be made to simply make the bad schools BETTER. That way parents won’t feel the need to go to such lengths to avoid schools in their own zip code.

What do you think about this so-called zip code education? Too much, or does it make sense?

16 Responses to “Zip Code Education”

  1. Peter Schott

    Interesting topic and I do understand the desire for a better education, but lying about an address isn't the right way to address this. Opening some sort of flexible boundary doesn't work well, either. How far do you let it go? Who decides exceptions? What about the people right next door to that boundary line? Maybe all of the schools should be open to anyone and your taxes just go towards the school you're using.
    In that case, let's make a call for people to have school vouchers towards their school – public or private (or even *gasp* private religion-based schools). Everyone gets the same amount per child to use towards the school of their choice. If the local public school is failing, they will either improve or die. It sounds a bit harsh, but just throwing money at failing schools doesn't guarantee success – in many cases it results in more lost money as the school continues to fail.

    It's sad that the case in CT came to this, but the woman was fraudulently using other people's tax money (their local taxes towards the school district). I don't think CPS should have stepped in to take the kids or that the person who let the mom use her address were treated fairly. That could have been handled by a fine instead of eviction and confiscation. I do have to say that the mom is guilty, whether we think it's fair or not. (and I do sympathize with her situation) We need to fix the system to address this problem. Personally, I think the best solution to be fair would be a voucher system towards whatever school you want your kids to attend. If your local public school is great – keep going there. If your district is failing, let the parents take their kids elsewhere.

  2. giveawayhound

    I wouldn't lie to get my son into a better school. That would set a very bad example for my son, IMO.

  3. Teresa Moore

    Well, where I live we have over 19 elementary schools in a pretty good size area. We have several towns bordering each other in one county which is why we have so many schools. Thankfully, we have school choice. Every spring you can apply to get your child in another school. I think you can put down three choices. The parents, if they get school choice, they are responsible for getting their child too and from school. i like that we have options here, but I know I would not lie about where I live. That too me is setting a bad example for your child.

  4. Cindi

    I remember the CT. case that you are talking about! We live in our town because
    it is known for its' quality educational system…The taxes are higher here than most
    of the towns around us, but, because Illinois' is basically broke ( because of fabulous
    governors ), the schools just made major layoffs! I wish every child could have a
    great education in school and at home! Maybe, one day they will.
    Thanks, Cindi

  5. Nadine

    My husband is a teacher in a small town but at a very good school. The school 20 miles away is absolutely horrible. We have several families open enroll their children at our school for a better education and better (and safer) experience. I would find it horrible for those parents if they didn't have the option to open enroll. I would not lie about my address to get my child in a better school, but I would do whatever I could (legally) to get my child the best and safest education experience possible!

  6. Susan Smith

    I wouldn't lie to get my son into a better school. When we movied into the area we picked an area that has an excellent school system. We also pay taxes for that school system so I wouldn't want someone is not living in this area to be be able to send their children to my district. They need to sen their children to the school nearest them even if it's not a good school district.

  7. Janet

    I wouldn't lie to get my child into a better school. I draw the line at that. If I lied, what sort of example would I be setting for my child?

    There are people in this world who have gone to excellent schools and yet they are failures with their lives. And there are people who have overcome the most horrid upbringings to go on to be major successes. That is the way that I would look at it if my child were in a not-so-desirable school district. Plus, as a parent, it is my job to ensure that my child is getting the best education possible. That means that I would pull out the school books and teach my child whatever it is that they aren't learning in school. My grandparents did that with my parents, my parents did that with me, and I am doing that with my children. As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child. Where there is a will, there is a way and it doesn't include breaking the law.

  8. talliana

    When we were looking for a house two years ago I told my realtor that our #1 priority was getting into an A rated school system. Once we found the school district I search for several months until we found a house we could afford in one of the upper middle class neighborhoods nearby. Yes I would do anything to give my kids the chances that me and my husband never had. It is not easy for a Black family to try to get into a predominantly white school district without someone questioning them about where they live. But we were lucky that we could do so by moving into the top rated school district rather than trying to sneak into the system.

  9. Wilma P

    I favor a voucher system so a famiy can send their child to a school that is safe and actually educating children.
    Eventually, the failing schools would either step up their game or just quietly fade away. I have a friend who teaches at a charter school in Pittsburgh and the students are inner-city children who were not doing too well until they came to the charter school. No one is failing, almost every student is graduating and some are even going on to college.
    This school and its teachers are really committed to education.

  10. Kenia

    I wouldn't lie either but the family was homeless, what address was she supposed to put? I think they should have helped her out instead of all that jail time. I have seem cases where child molesters didn't see any jail time but this woman gets to go to jail for up to 12 years!!! We all want the best for our kids.

    This is a very interesting topic =]

  11. Aisha Holley

    I would do everything I can to make sure my kids would go to a very good school. Their education is so important and if I can't enroll them in a good school I'd home school them.

  12. Erica C.

    It's terrible that people have to lie about it, but most parents would lie in these situations.

  13. Rosanne

    So often we blame the school when it's the parents who don't get their kids to bed on time, feed them a decent breakfast yet they have money for cigarettes and drugs and alcohol, and don't attend teacher conferences. If the school is not up to par, go to the library, read to your child, do math problems. I grew up in am impoverished neighborhood to an unemployed alcoholic father and a mentally ill mother. I graduated college and all four of my sons attend top 50 universities with honors. Where there's a will there's a way. My husband and I sacrificed enormously for them to attend religious schools. We made sure they did their homework and cooperated with the teachers.


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