It’s been five years since Tanya McDowell made national headlines after she was charged with larceny for “stealing an education” for her son. Even with some time to think, McDowell believes enrolling her son at a Norwalk Public School was the right call.
The Hour has the story:
Though she bemoans missing some of the most formidable years of her young son’s life, the 39-year-old McDowell insists she doesn’t regret her decision.
‘I would still do it all over again because I haven’t been let down,’ McDowell said Friday afternoon in one of her first interviews since being released from jail two years ago. ‘My son exceeded all of my expectations.’
During his mother’s incarceration, Andrew lived with his grandmother in Bridgeport and attended Thomas Hooker Elementary School. There, McDowell said, he had perfect attendance and made the honor roll.
‘That’s where I got it from,’ McDowell said, referencing her mother. ‘Education was big in my household. She picked up exactly where I left off. I couldn’t be more proud.’
She’s also proud to have become a figurehead for the social inequalities that exist in America’s public school system.
‘I’m not only doing it for Andrew,’ McDowell said. ‘I’m doing it for any other parent, any other child out there that has the potential to exceed and excel at a certain level and is just being deprived, period.’
The Investigations Haven’t Ended
While, in 2013, the state decriminalized “stealing an education,” this issue is by no means settled.
The Norwalk Public Schools still haven’t stopped hiring private investigators to check up on homeless students. According to the blog Nancy On Norwalk, the city has ramped up their vigilance, instructing staff to “keep tabs on homeless students.”
Since the investigations started the district has found six families that had enrolled their children from out-of-district. Three of which may have their children de-enrolled before the year is out and another three families are longtime residents whose houses were burned down.
While it’s understandable for a city and it’s residents to be upset when resources are used on students who reside out-of-the-district, that’s precisely the problem. Connecticut’s education system relies too heavily on property taxes.
Connecticut’s education funding system is inequitable—so inequitable, that’s it’s driven some parents to enroll their children in schools outside their district in order to give them a fair shot.
Connecticut’s constitution is supposed to guarantee a free and “substantially equal education” to all Connecticut students. Until the state fulfills its duty, how is it that parents—particularly homeless parents who are often targeted by these investigations—bearing the brunt?