Education

College Bribery Scandal Shows How School Systems Set Up Poor, Minority Students To Fail

Those without a financial leg up have a much harder time succeeding.

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Peter Muller Cultura/Newscom

She wanted her daughters to go to a good school, and she broke the law to make it happen.

I'm not talking about Lori Loughlin or Felicity Huffman, the Hollywood stars who made headlines for writing fat checks to sneak their children into elite universities. I'm referring to Kelley Williams-Bolar, who, in 2011, used her father's address to ensure her kids attended a higher-quality school outside her Akron, Ohio, school district. Williams-Bolar served nine days of a five-year prison sentence, received three years probation, and had to complete 80 hours of community service.

"I did this for them, so there it is," she told ABC. "I did this for them." According to officials, her crimes equated to stealing an education: Prior to her indictment, they demanded she give the city $30,000 in taxes, which she refused to do.

The difference between these cases isn't just the presence of celebrity. Huffman and Loughlin had great options for their kids, and thought they could buy even better ones; Williams-Bolar was trying to protect her kids from only (terrible) option available to them.

According to NBC News investigative reporter Tom Winter, it's unlikely the famous actresses will serve any jail time. There's nothing necessarily objectionable about that—society stands to gain very little from locking them away, since they pose no danger.

The disparity between these two worlds tells us something about education in America. Poverty-stricken families are not only unable to bribe coaches or proctors, but many also can't afford legal leg-ups, like extracurriculars that require a fee or private test prep courses. Americans without access to wealth are forced to rely on the public education system, and often find themselves trapped in failing schools solely because of their zip code.

Because schools tend to be mirror images of their neighborhoods, poor neighborhoods generally beget poor schools, with fewer resources and less effective teachers. And as "rich vs. underprivileged" is often synonymous with "white vs. nonwhite," a minority-heavy school is a predictive marker that achievement outcomes will be lower, according to the Brookings Institution. The U.S. Government Accountability Office found that, in schools with heavy Black and Hispanic populations, 75 to 100 percent were also eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. These students start life behind, and seldom acquire the financial means to close in on their wealthier peers.

There is no policy mechanism for "fixing" the wealth gap, but the educational gap is ripe for disruption. Greg Forster, a senior fellow with the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, notes that research studying the link between racial segregation and school choice options is promising. Out of the 10 empirical studies conducted on the matter thus far, nine have shown a positive impact on decreasing school segregation. The remaining study showed a negligible impact.

Of Louisiana's public voucher program, for instance, Forster highlights that students who take advantage of school choice "reduce segregation in both the public schools and the private schools," and that such transfers "move both public and private schools closer to the racial composition of the surrounding metropolitan area."

Another study, conducted by researchers at Harvard University, found that New York City's voucher program increased the college enrollment rate among African American students by 24 percent. In tandem with Forster's research, that lends credence to the idea that more options can help desegregate the school system, and produce better outcomes for the ones who need them most.

For now, though, people like Williams-Bolar are locked in a cycle that they can't break out of, so long as educational opportunity turns solely on what house you can buy—or who you can bribe.

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  1. College Bribery Scandal Shows How School Systems Set Up Poor, Minority Students To Fail

    I thought it kind of showed how the children of super-wealthy, shallow half-wits get set up to fail.

    1. Depends on definitions, I guess. Is living comfortably on Daddy’s money “failure”?

      1. ‘Former President’s Daughter’.

        Its an easy to live with failure, but its a failure nonetheless.

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    3. Limousine liberals bribe elite colleges to admit their kids. Poor and minorities hit hardest!

  2. If we allow school choice then some parents will just exploit that loophole to avoid sending their children to poorly performing schools.

  3. “And as “rich vs. underprivileged” is often synonymous with “white vs. nonwhite,” a minority-heavy school is a predictive marker that achievement outcomes will be lower, according to the Brookings Institution”

    This is usually only true in American metro areas, particularly in the North. As much as it was funny watching progressives tell coal miners in West Virginia and manufacturers in Ohio that they benefited from “white privilege”, it is pretty dumb.

    1. The most racially unequal places in the country tend to be large liberal cities. It’s why we never hear about poor white people and liberals put so much stake in white privilege. Most of them live in places where all the white people are rich and the all the poor people are brown and black. They likely DID come from privilege. They just never encounter the white people who do not have that privilege, and instead just mock, stereotype, and ridicule them.

      1. The only white people I’ve ever encountered bloviating about white privilege have been those from the upper-middle and wealthy classes with college degrees. Working-class whites are generally too busy paying bills to worry about such self-hating nonsense.

      2. And yes, urban liberal whites are amongst the most racist in the country. It’s no accident that they send their kids to private and charter schools rather than the more diverse neighborhood public schools, where they know little Mason or Brooke will probably get bullied on a regular basis for being a cracker, and the teachers have to act as glorified prison wardens rather than teachers out of sheer self-preservation.

    2. I think the confluence between public teacher unions (who want public schools to remain a jobs bank) and affluent urban whites (who don’t want poor and minority kids attending their schools) joining together to stop voucher systems from being created in these urban areas isn’t examined enough. Opposition to vouchers is only based upon rent seeking and pretty blatant bigotry.

    1. Those damn white nationalist Asians

      1. LOL ? such a lame right-wing argument. “How is it white supremacy if Asian Americans do better on standardized tests than whites???”

        Sorry, if blacks do worse than whites it’s still white supremacy. I learned that in college. Take a sociology class sometime.

        1. I didn’t mention anything about “tests”. Just the demographic make-up of the student body. Anyone that analyzes test scores based upon the aggregate average results of racial groups is involved in very poor scholarship, since there is no definition for what constitutes an “African American” or even an “Asian” for that matter. And no one can define what is a good measurement of “intellect”.

          Whatever, you’re a parody or ENB (same difference).

        2. “”Sorry, if blacks do worse than whites it’s still white supremacy. I learned that in college.””

          Can only be white supremacy? Nothing else? Lack of parent involvement in learning? Socio-economic factors?

          Your sociology class sucked.

    2. If only the NYC education system were public instead of for-profit.

      1. Amusing wisecrack. But white supremacy infects both the government and private sector. The racist cops who put bullets in black bodies in the HANDS UP DON’T SHOOT position are government employees, after all.

        1. I agree with you. The more blue the city, the greater the White Supremacy!

    3. It is a system failure. But perhaps not a school system failure.

      1. Is it a failure or a success? I’m not so sure that the destruction of Black people wasn’t the plan.

    4. Of course, the policies necessary to fix these problems are obvious:

      (1) Affirmative action and busing must be used to ensure a critical mass of black and brown students at every public school in the country, beginning with kindergarten.

      (2) As leading Democrats like Elizabeth Warren are pointing out, African Americans must finally receive the trillions of dollars in reparations for slavery they are owed.

      Although the solution is clear, it’s politically difficult because of the racist alt-right white nationalist Republicans standing in the way of progress. That’s why anyone who cares about fighting racism must vote Democrat.

      #LibertariansForAffirmativeAction
      #LibertariansForBusing
      #LibertariansForReparations

    5. To only have 7 Black students accepted into Stuyvesant (a *public* high school) tells us that this is a system failure.

      Not being from NYC, it sounds like a setup for a racist joke. What’s a Stuyvesant and how many black students are you supposed to put into it?

  4. There is no policy mechanism for “fixing” the wealth gap

    Sure there is. The schools can set aside a hundred slots for paying customers. Then the wealthy can buy their way in regardless of their kids’ merit. Schools would make millions which they can use to fund scholarships for the poor. #wealthtransfertheoldfashionedway #freeurmind #moneyphobiaendswithme

    1. “Schools would make millions which they can use to fund scholarships for the poor.”

      They would absolutely never do that. They already receive numerous subsidies from the federal, state, and local government (everything from being able to issue tax free bonds to being exempt from income taxes and capital gains taxes on their endowment funds and property tax exemptions) and yet very few schools redirect this money to benefit poor students.

      I like your first point, though, because it’s more honest about what colleges are: money making enterprises. The myth of the academy needs to die.

      1. I’m a small-government libertarian. That means that I believe that the government must stop subsidizing school. In fact that’s why I’ll vote for Trump like I did last time. Because any of the dem candidates will only increase funding. (Of course, I’ll vote for Rand Paul, unless my vote matters.)

        If you are a not a small-government libertarian then of course you don’t believe that this is possible. But then what are you doing here?

        1. “In fact that’s why I’ll vote for Trump like I did last time.”

          Dude has done nothing on school choice despite nominating a big pro-voucher secretary of education.

          Anyways, I think you’re being factious and I just can’t tell anymore.

          1. In all fairness, that is about the extent that POTUS should be involved in public education. (Not that there even should be a Dept of Education, but that is a bigger battle).

    2. The schools can set aside a hundred slots for paying customers.

      100 slots for schools with 100 chairs and 10 teachers as well as schools with 1000 chairs and 100 teachers? Or are you proposing some proportional system or an elaborate algorithm for deducing the just right number of slots based on a school or communities resources?

      #commandeconomiesarehard

    3. That’s exactly how private schools work!

  5. 75 to 100 percent were also eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. These students start life behind, and seldom acquire the financial means to close in on their wealthier peers.

    TANSTAAFL bitches!

    Greg Forster, a senior fellow with the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, notes that research studying the link between racial segregation and school choice options is promising. Out of the 10 empirical studies conducted on the matter thus far, nine have shown a positive impact on decreasing school segregation.

    Fuck right off with that noise! Lest we end up with a guaranteed access to free education penaltax that does precisely jack shit with regard to actually increasing the number of kids who can do math functionally.

  6. “There is no policy mechanism for “fixing” the wealth gap, but the educational gap is ripe for disruption”

    If “fixing” the education gap doesn’t fix the wealth gap then why the hell spend money on doing it?

    1. Because a wealth gap is not a problem.

      And ‘more education’ can mean ‘more money’ at the bottom rungs – even if the top of the ladder never gets closer, those on the bottom are still getting better off.

      1. “And ‘more education’ can mean ‘more money’ at the bottom rungs – even if the top of the ladder never gets closer, those on the bottom are still getting better off.”

        Except there’s no evidence that that ever actually happens.
        It definitely means more money for the administrators of the bottom rung.
        And both those reasons are why more money is constantly demanded; in the name of the bottom rung, but for the administrators.

  7. “: Prior to her indictment, they demanded she give the city $30,000 in taxes, which she refused to do.”

    There’s no reason for her to refuse to pay as long as she had the money. I’ve got little sympathy for her.

    1. Didn’t she already pay taxes?

      Why don’t they take the money from the school district her home was in? Those guys got it for free and, without that extra pupil, should still have it, not having any reason to spend it, right?

      1. Right. Though she probably pays less in taxes than the other school district does due to property values.

        Even if she rents she is still indirectly paying taxes.

  8. Maybe they should stop being poor.

    1. Maybe we should stop practicing dysgenics by encouraging and facilitating poverty and punishing industriousness.

      1. ^RIGHT.. Stop marking every bad decision, crime and personal action as *VOID* just because income is less than. A Valueless person SHOULD be “poor” and its up to them to decide to be a VALUE to Society.

        1. It SHOULD be up to them, but government has imposed significant obstacles for anyone who would strive to be productive outside of conventional employment. Free people can choose to work, but they can’t choose to be hired by others.

    2. Mom seems to have taken a step backwards from the prior generation. Her dad lived in the better school district.

      I wonder what happened there.

  9. “Another study, conducted by researchers at Harvard University, found that New York City’s voucher program increased the college enrollment rate among African American students by 24 percent. In tandem with Forster’s research, that lends credence to the idea that more options can help desegregate the school system, and produce better outcomes for the ones who need them most.”

    Two things.

    1) Parents who care enough to go through the trouble of getting their kid in a school by using vouchers will obviously be spending more time supporting their children’s education.

    2) fuck your “need them most” social signaling.

    1. The decoupling of parental involvement from the discussion of outcomes is one of the most infuriating things to happen in education ever. To even discuss parental involvement gets one immediately branded racist, despite it being by far the strongest indicator of positive educational outcomes. The rest of us aren’t supposed to bring up the large number of uninvolved parents in these situations, we’re just supposed to shut up and pay for fixing it.

      1. It all went down the toilet when citizens created “Daddy Gov”.

  10. poor neighborhoods generally beget poor schools, with fewer resources

    Bullshit. Predominately minority urban schools consistently spend MORE money per student than suburban schools and MUCH more than rural schools, yet the suburban and rural schools average much better student achievement. Lack of money is not their problem. The linked study admits this several times, using the phrase
    “fewer resources outside of the school building”, not just the misleading “fewer resources” Billy quoted.

  11. Northern states never went through desegregation. They talked shit to everywhere else but never bussed kids across towns. I grew up in a mass town that had almost no black people because the token family moved away. When my dad was living in Ohio in the 70s he was bussed to the black school as part of desegregation and used it to gain valuable insight.

    Give people a choice and the bad parts of education deminish without having to use force.

  12. According to officials, her crimes equated to stealing an education: Prior to her indictment, they demanded she give the city $30,000 in taxes, which she refused to do.

    Wait a minute. If she paid taxes then she paid for that education.

    And if she didn’t pay taxes, these are the people who say that everyone needs to pay taxes (even if they never have children) because education ‘is a public good and I should shut my fat incel mouth about it’.

  13. Eliminate public schools. Problem solved.

    1. Then my female co-workers will start bring their kids to work with them. No thanks.

      1. i didn’t say eliminate schools. I said eliminate public schools.

        1. Most American parents can’t afford private schools. They would just do without.

          1. I didn’t say leave people too poor to afford school to fend for themselves either. But public schools and all that goes with it is the heart of the problem.

            You can give poor people subsidies for education just as they are given subsidies for food, abortions, and cell phones.

            1. No public schools would be good in that educational entrepreneurs would seek to fill the void by offering basic, no frills options for the poor folks.

              1. And those already exist even in a market dominated by the “free” public option. I know people who are paying $1500/year for the private school they are in. Not a scholarship either. I’m not saying it’s the highest rated school in the state but it’s private, and cheap. And parents have chosen to put their kids in it over a public school.

            2. “You can give poor people subsidies for education” — Right.

              STOP punishing those in society who add VALUE and rewarding those who make stupid choices already! A *valueless* society is created by subsidizing and encouraging stupidity.

              Those that fail can ‘beg’ their neighbors for assistance (i.e. The LOCAL welfare office), live in a tent or be shipped off to a Washington D.C. ‘Workhouse’.

              Its sickening how VALUELESS members of society are stubbornly insist they choose where they are going to live, what house, what car, what TV, what Healthcare, what Education — ALL THE WHILE not willing to create a single item of VALUE for society in return.

              People need to realize again that – BEGGARS CAN’T BE CHOOSERS

          2. “Most American parents can’t afford private schools. They would just do without.” —
            FUNNY — I thought “Most American parents” were PAYING for Public Schools.

            1. They’re paying a small share, but they are heavily subsidized by the taxes of childless people, wealthy people who pay a larger share of the taxes, and businesses. The taxes of parents alone would cover only a very small fraction of public education spending.

  14. The college bribery scandal is just another black market. Why can’t University set aside a small percentage of entrants of students who do not qualify and sell them to the highest bidder. Use the money for scholarships for low income students and for programs to help low income students make it through college. One would be paying older students from similar backgrounds to tudor freshman not just for classes but also how to succeed. I welcome criticism of this idea I’m sure there are problems with it I’m not seeing.

    1. It would cheapen the diploma. As it is now, the diploma has the cachet associated with high admission standards

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