Friday, January 28, 2011

Providing for Our Kids is Costly

I was listening to WGN 720 AM yesterday and they were discussing a recent criminal case wherein a woman was arrested for sending her two kids to a school in the district in which her father lives, but she and her children do not. While I have not fully read the charges, I gathered from the report, discussion, and callers that Kelly Williams-Bolar was not arrested out of the blue, but after repeatedly lying about her residency and even having her father file false documents with the courts.

People want to be able to send their kids to the best schools, or the schools of their choice. We all understand that. Unfortunately, the world, whether you live in a capitalist, democratic, autocratic, socialist, or other social order, does not have equality in education. It is not possible. There are going to be geographic locations that attract better teachers and better students.

I went to Deerfield high school in Deerfield, IL. We had three things going for us. First, the money to pay for the best teachers. Second, parent involvement. Third, kids who came from homes who expected their kids to go to college, meaning expecting them to do their schoolwork, show up to school, etc. (Not that the kids were angels, by any means.) What parent wouldn't want their child in that environment?

For sure, there are plenty of grandparents living in district.That does not mean that their grandchildren should be allowed access to the schools. Why stop there? What about aunts and uncles? Cousins? Second cousins twice removed?

Okay, so I'm getting silly. But there has to be a line that cannot be crossed and that line is defined by the parents living within the district. If people want their kids to go to the school of their choice, they can apply and pay as if they were in private school.

If you want your kids in better schools, then MOVE THERE. Or pay non-resident tuition. Period. If you can't afford it, then take extra time yourself to give them extra lessons. Public libraries have plenty of resources. There are a number of free online educational tools.

Could she afford to live in the district? Probably. In the type of accommodation that she would like? Maybe not. But life is full of opportunity and opportunity cost. Want your kids to go to Deerfield schools but your family makes $50,000? Or less? You'll probably have to rent a tiny apartment. Guess what? People do it. But what are they willing to sacrifice to get more out of life?

Teaching children to take illegal shortcuts will only create adults with a lack of ethical character. For sure, that was not what Kelly Williams-Bolar was trying to accomplish. But when her kids are faced with a major dilemma, will they make the ethical decision?

Perhaps we often forget what our family went through to allow us to live where we do - in the United States. My Grandfather came from Eastern Europe around 1910 in the hull of a steam ship, slept in haylofts, and hauled coal and ice while going to night school. All so that his kids could get a proper education in a safer place. And my parents for sacrificing all of their time and savings to buy a house they could barely afford so that we could go to the very best schools. Black? Asian? European? Protestant? Catholic? Jewish? Muslim? It doesn't matter. That's how we all came to be here - because it sucked back there. Those people had dreams of a better life. Well here it is. Do something with it.

Quit making excuses for people who aren't willing to do what it takes to make their dreams come true. I have greater goals than I have focus. But I don't whine about what I don't have, what I haven't accomplished. I don't have those things because I haven't made the sacrifices necessary to bring them to life.

There are people out there who believe that the people making the most money have been handed something for free. I beg to differ. While there are a handful of trust-fund babies out there, by and large the most that higher income earners have been handed was opportunity. Instead of doing drugs and screwing around during high school and college, they were doing their homework, getting As and Bs, then going to graduate law or medical school, racking up tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in educational debt. It is up to most people in this world to make the most of their situation. Instead, many wish their situation was something else instead of maximizing the resources within reach.

I'm not trying to point a finger or blame anyone. I'm trying to encourage individual responsibility. Take responsibility for what you have and where you want to be. There are no golden tickets. The lottery is not going to be the answer. Making unethical decisions to provide for children will bear lessons in illicit behavior. Stress education. Stress ethics. Expect effort. Expect excellence. Don't settle.

A friend of mine once defined luck as the time when preparation meets opportunity. That's the best thing you can do for your children: prepare them to take advantage of the opportunities that await them.


  1. That's a tough one to call. Thank goodness where we live we can enroll our kids in a school outside of our boundaries. Thank goodness. It made a difference in our children's education and with whom they spend their social time. Thankfully we live in an area that does not have a 'project' or 'inner city'...etc. I feel some compassion for the woman who sent her child to the neighborhood with greener pastures. I am not sure if I would go to the extent that she went to do so but still, there are circumstances where I can see where someone would feel desperate enough to do what she did. OK that was a little long and I am still not done but it's good enough.

  2. I absolutely empathize with her situation. However, my wife and I bought a house in a Chicago city district with a top public elementary school. We paid at least 10-20% more than we would have in other parts of the city for what we got, a decision that has come with considerable sacrifice. (Just as choosing to be a homemaker came with considerable sacrifice.)

    Schools have been, and will continue to be, a hot political topic because of the finances required. I can say that we're fortunate to have been able to buy a house rather than live in a multi-unit dewlling, but I know that I would have no problem doing so if our circumstances required it.