In case you haven’t heard by now, Lori Loughlin, AKA Aunt Becky from Full House, among other celebrities, is accused of buying her two daughters into University of Southern California (USC). She allegedly spent over $500,000 just so her daughters could receive the “World Class” education that the University of Southern California claims to offer. Although she was jailed, she was recently released on a bail for $1,000,000 and is pending trial in May. While this news seems upsetting and astonishing, bribing admissions into colleges is no new thing. Many wealthy celebrities, and even just rich parents, have bought libraries, paid professors, paid off chancellors, etc. just to get their kid into college. Among ethical issues, there is another pressing problem at hand. The dismissal of some white celebrities involved in this scandal and how they are treated so well is surprising considering the treatment some black women have gotten for committing similar crimes.
Amid this admissions-cheating scandal, people can’t help but remember Kelley Williams-Bolar. Williams-Bolar was sent to jail in 2011 for putting fake home addresses for her daughters’ in order that they could attend a better school, located in a higher performing district than the one they were zoned for in. Williams-Bolar stated, “I wanted them to have a good start in life; I wanted to send them to one of the best schools. What I did was in the best interest of my daughters.” She used her father’s home address as her own so that her daughters, who were 12 and 9 at the time, could attend school in the Copley Fairlawn School District, an affluent, mostly white school district. Of course, her case attracted national media attention, as she was found guilty of grand theft and tampering with evidence and sentenced to ten days in jail, three years of probation, and given a $70,000 fine.
While Williams-Bolar was wrong in the eyes of the law, we can’t help but look at the continuous issue of how hard it is for inner-city black youth to attend high scoring high-quality schools. For black families, specifically the poor and working-class families, public schools are the only option for primary and secondary education. If a family lives in a neighborhood with low-supported or underfunded schools, their children are likely to receive a poor education and not be on par with the rest of their peers, as far as the learning curve is concerned. To put this into perspective, in a study by education trust in 2015, Illinois was seen to have the greatest funding gap in the nation, which meant that school districts with the greatest numbers of students living in poverty received 20% less in state and local dollars than their wealthier peers. Parents, because of this gap, would try to send their children to “selective enrollment” schools within their districts, which most of the time receive better funding than the schools in which they are zoned in. In the Chicago public school system, it is not possible for students to attend any selective enrollment school if they are not zoned correctly into that area or are found to be enrolled fraudulently.
Kelley Williams-Bolar’s experience highlight how a system, which can be seen as built on intense racial and economic segregation within the United States’ cities, makes it difficult for black or brown children to have access to quality education. Unlike the wealthy white women focused on in the alleged college cheating scandal, Williams-Bolar had few resources and little power to navigate an educational system structured without her daughter’s best interests in mind.