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?