The Al Sharpton Show

The Rev. Eugene Norris, pastor at the Mountain of the Lord Fellowship; Boyce Watkins, PhD.; the Rev. Al Sharpton; and Bobbi Simpson, president of the Akron chapter of the National Action Network. Photo by crappy old cell phone.

Al Sharpton came to town Thursday to mobilize the troops in search of more equitable state funding for public schools.

Say or think what you will about Sharpton, he is an engaging and entertaining speaker.

And he has a legitimate point about school funding. The Ohio Supreme Court has repeatedly told the legislature and governor(s) that our existing system of funding schools (largely on the backs of home owners) is unconstitutional. For almost 15 years the state has dragged its feet on drafting a suitable replacement. I seriously doubt one is forthcoming.

Sharpton is not the same guy who championed Tawana Brawley two decades ago, but that debacle will probably forever dog him in critics’ eyes.

So you can bet more than one pair of eyes rolled at the prospect of Sharpton rolling into Akron just as the dust was starting to settle on the Williams-Bolar affair.

The Kelley Williams-Bolar story has become a lightning rod of public opinion in Akron and vicinity. She gamed the system, broke the law, to get her daughters out of a school system she felt was failing her daughters. Ironically, Bolar is an employee of Akron Public Schools. So there’s that. There’s open enrollment, a program that allows students from one district to attend school in another (participating) district. Problem is Copley-Fairlawn schools don’t participate in open enrollment. The state’s funding system apparently penalizes districts like Copley-Fairlawn if they do participate in open enrollment.  That particular conundrum is explained at Patch along with a few other “inconvenient” facts.

There apparently was a bullying issue, which hasn’t been well explained. Wish I’d thought to ask Sharpton about that in the post-speech press conference (duh). Not my finest hour.

And Al did make a point (several points, actually) that parents and students themselves are responsible for how they do in school and in life.

It’s not that all Akron schools are bad. Far from it. My son and daughter both go to Akron Public Schools, even though we live in agood school district, Cuyahoga Falls. But the Miller South School for Visual and Performing Arts and Firestone High School are even better – so good that you have to try out or audition to get in.

But urban school districts do face issues that suburban districts see a lot less of – single-parent families, poverty, crime. The Buchtel “cluster” (the district’s term, not mine) has more than its share of poverty and hardship.

Bolar, a black single mom, and her kids live in the projects. She wanted a way out, and thought she had found it. Her dad lives in the Copley-Fairlawn school district. So that’s where the paperwork said she and her kids live. And she got caught in the lie.

And at that point, the snowball started rolling downhill.


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