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Sharpton Urges Gov Kasich To Push Legislature To Revise Unconstitutional School Funding Formula At Rally For Jailed Parent
Submitted by JournalistKathy... on Wed, 03/09/2011 - 05:29.
In the wake of a felony conviction and the jailing of an Akron, Oh. parent for sending her two children to a neighboring predominantly White school district with the hope of getting them a better education, the Rev. Al Sharpton is calling on Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich to push the state legislature to comply with a longstanding mandate by the Ohio Supreme Court to revise its unconstitutional system of funding public education.
That mandate was issued nearly 14 years ago when the Ohio Supreme Court ruled in the state's landmark constitutional case of DeRolph. vs State of Ohio that its system of funding education partially through property taxes is unconstitutional. In its unprecedented decision Ohio's high court said that the state legislature's current school funding method has created property rich and property poor school districts to the detriment of poor children, and in violation of the requirement of Ohio's Constitution that the state legislature provide equal access to a “thorough and efficient” education for all of Ohio's children.
“Yes,” said Sharpton to the question of whether Kasich should lead the charge for the state legislature to comply with the Ohio Supreme Court's mandate to revise its inequitable system of funding education, a question posed by the DeterminerWeekly.Com and the Kathy Wray Coleman Online News Blog.Com during a press conference on Thursday.
That press conference, that drew a host of media within a 50 mile radius of the town of Akron, Oh. that is some 43 miles south of Cleveland, was held after the former presidential candidate spoke to about 500 people at a rally in support of the disenfranchised Black parent at the Mountain of the Lord Fellowship Church on Copley Rd.
Sponsored by the Akron Chapter of Sharpton's New York based National Action Network, the gathering was uplifting, and down home, and the longtime Civil Rights activist that garnered standing ovations at different times during his speech did not disappoint.
“The issue is about equal education and equal protection and I'm here about a bigger picture,” Sharpton told rally participants. “Where you live should not have any bearing on how you are treated.”
Sharpton urged Ohio lawmakers and Kasich to follow the constitution and the law, saying there must be equal education based on equal funding.
"I think the governor and the legislature should comply with federal law,” he said, referencing a violation of the equal protection clause under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution since poor Black and other minority children in Cleveland and elsewhere throughout the state are disproportionately impacted by Ohio's unconstitutional school funding formula.
Kelley Williams-Bolar, at the time an Akron schools assistant teacher, spent nine days in jail earlier this year for falsifying documents to enroll her two daughters in the nearby Copley-Fairlawn School District. She and her children live in an Akron city housing project and she sought to escape sending them to the Akron public schools by using her father's address on school applications, an action that sparked a celebrated case that highlights America's have and have- nots, and one that quickly gained national attention.
Williams-Bolar,40, a single parent, did not attend the rally, though she had met with Sharpton previously around the controversial school funding issue and her associated jailing.
Mainstream media have for the most part been silent in recent years as to Ohio's unconstitutional school funding formula. And the Akron and Cleveland Chapters of the NAACP won't speak up either, though the Cleveland Municipal School District spends half the amount of money annually per student that the Perry Local schools spend with its nearby nuclear power plant that brings in big tax bucks, and neighboring Shaker Hts School District spends a great deal more too, all while the Ohio Department of Education continually mandates comparable performances on standardize testing and even penalizes poor performing school districts. But the silence by the country's local chapters of its most prominent Civil Rights organization did not stop Sharpton from driving his point home Thursday night.
The Civil Rights activist took the audience back to 1954 citing the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case of Brown vs. Board of Education where America's top court outlawed racial segregation in public education. He said that the pendulum has swung back and that Ohio is center stage.
“We talk so much about the Civil rights era that we forget it started because parents wanted their children to have an equal education," Sharpton said. "The Civil Rights movement was not just about sharing the same toilet or getting a cup of coffee at Woolworths, it was about some conscientious Black parents who wanted the same access to information as everyone else in America. Someone decided that those kids didn't fit and they fought their case all the way up to the Supreme Court.”
The high tempered rally, that went on for about two hours, drew educational policy makers, clergy, grassroots activists from groups such as the Imperial Women and the Carl Stokes Brigade, students, and area parents.
And the activists are calling for Kasich, who took office in Jan., to give Williams-Bolar an immediate pardon, saying the punishment does not fit the crime and that in their eyes no crime has occurred.
“The law under which the conviction came is unconstitutional since Ohio's Constitution requires access to a quality education for Ms. Williams-Bolar's children like rich White children, and how can state legislators continue to get away with breaking the law by not revising its illegal system of funding public education and not at all face jail?," said Barbara Bickerstaff, a member of the Imperial Women.
Dionne Thomas Carmichael, a member of the Carl Stokes Brigade who attended the rally with Brigade President and former Cleveland School Board member Genevieve Mitchell, agreed.
“What's good for the goose is good for the gander,” said Thomas Carmichael.
Sharpton said too that laws like the one that caused Civil Rights icon Rosa Parks to refuse to give up her seat to a White man on a bus, a move that heightened the Civil Rights movement led by the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr , must be broken.
And, said Sharpton, the case of Williams-Bolar is no different.
“There comes a time when unjust laws have to be broken and now we must break the law for a quality education,” he said.
Akron School Board President, the Rev Dr. Curtis Walker Sr., said that the coalition of school districts that are plaintiffs in the DeRolph case, which does not include Cleveland's public school district, should petition the Ohio Supreme Court to, for the fourth time, order the state legislature to comply with its 1997 order to revise its system of funding public education.
“Something has to be done about the unconstitutional way that we fund our public schools and the state legislature should comply with the Ohio Supreme Court's order to revise it,” said Walker.
Protesters at the rally held signs calling Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan-Walsh “racist" for rejecting a lessor misdemeanor charge and prosecuting Williams- Bolar on a two count felony charge.
The case is on appeal, though the issues on appeal would pertain to whether Summit County Common Pleas Court Judge Patricia Cosgrove abused her discretion and erred, or whether the jury lost its way in issuing the guilty verdict before a packed courtroom. And in order to challenge on appeal the constitutionality of the law under which Williams-Bolar was convicted, her trial lawyers had to properly raise that issue at the trial court level prior to the appeal.