I realize that the school choice folks are all for private schools and charter schools and the like. I also support school choice, but not in the same way. In my school choice realm, homeless moms who are looking for a way to have their kid get a
April 22, 2011

I realize that the school choice folks are all for private schools and charter schools and the like. I also support school choice, but not in the same way. In my school choice realm, homeless moms who are looking for a way to have their kid get a decent education in a safer neighborhood would actually be able to make that choice. So when you hear the term "school choice" from me, consider my definition.

I'm not sure why this is becoming something fashionable to do, but it seems like a complete waste of taxpayers' money to charge a homeless mom of a six-year old boy with grand theft. What's the point, exactly? If she can't pay for a home, how will she be able to pay back $16,000? Nevertheless, that is what just happened in Norwalk, Connecticut.

Not only is she charged with grand larceny, but the babysitter who was in fact a babysitter (that at least is undisputed) whose address she used was evicted from the public housing development where she lived for allowing the child's mother to use her address to get the boy into school.

The police investigation into the residency began in January after Norwalk Housing Authority attorney Donna Lattarulo filed a complaint alleging McDowell registered her son at Brookside, but actually lived in an apartment on Priscilla Street in Bridgeport.

As part of the evidence presented in the complaint, police received an affidavit of residency signed by McDowell and dated last September attesting that she lived in the Roodner Court public housing complex on Ely Ave.

When she was interviewed by police in the case, McDowell admitted to living in Bridgeport at the time she registered her son in Norwalk schools.

She said she knew a man who owned a home on Priscilla Street and he allowed her to sleep at the home at night, but she had to leave the home during the day until he returned from work.
She also acknowledged that she stays from time to time at the Norwalk Emergency Shelter when she has nowhere else to stay.

McDowell also admitted that Marques was her son's babysitter from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. after the boy got out of school.

Read more.

So what's the point of doing this? To teach any other homeless person of color with little means and a child to educate that they'd better not be sending their kids to a different district where they might actually get an education that helps them to read and write so they can actually better themselves? Seriously, I am not playing bleeding-heart liberal here. I do not understand the logic in telling a homeless person they're a criminal because they used an address of a person where their child probably spent more time in one place than anywhere else. I do not understand kicking someone when they're already down.

Even if there is more to this story than has been reported, what exactly IS the message? How is society better served by telling this mother who already has absolutely nothing but a child she is trying to look after that she's a criminal for doing it?

Perhaps one of you can explain this, because to me it looks and feels like straight-up racism. Check out some of these reactions:

McDowell's arrest marks the first time Norwalk Board of Education Vice Chairman Glenn Iannaccone has heard of someone facing criminal charges for sending their child to Norwalk schools.

"This is the first time I have heard something like this where there has been an arrest. Other allegations like this have been handled by the central office. I'm not sure if the police have been involved," Iannaccone said.

Norwalk Board of Education Chairman Jack Chiaramonte expressed surprise at McDowell's arrest and the investigation that led to it.

"I don't get that at all," Chiaramonte said. "Usually when they find a kid out of district, they send him back. I have never heard of people being arrested for it, but I am not sure of the law. For my understanding, whenever we find someone from another district we send them back."

Mayor Richard Moccia said that he was aware that an investigation was proceeding in the case and that an arrest was possible.

"This now sends a message to other parents that may have been living in other towns and registering their kids with phony addresses," he said.

While Moccia said it was sad the case involves a woman who appears to be homeless, he pointed out that if she had been living at the Norwalk shelter and registered her child there she would not be facing charges now.

Funny how the "message" seems to be sent to people least able to defend themselves, isn't it?

If nothing exposes the fallacy of the right-wing "school choice" non-choice, let this case open some eyes. School choice is only for kids of parents who want to send their kids out of school districts, not to a different public school district. And because public school districts are locally managed, if that locality doesn't want kids of poor homeless moms of color there, well...all they have to do is get the investigator to follow them long enough to get the goods and BAM.

No child left behind. Yeah, right.

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