Education freedom is a leading civil rights issue today in the US 

Criminal charges against a single black mother and conviction of another for sending their children to schools in districts in which they are not residents provide yet more indications of deep problems in our country.

In one case, a single, homeless black mother in Connecticut is now charged with larceny for supposedly “stealing” $15,686 in education services because she sent her five-year-old son to kindergarten in a school district where she doesn’t live by using her babysitter’s address.

Earlier this year, a single black mother in Ohio was convicted and sentenced to 10 days in jail and three years probation for using her father’s address so her daughters could attend better and safer schools.

Did these women break the law? Technically, yes. But I would call this reality the 2011 version of the Fugitive Slave Act.

Public school reality today for black kids keeps them incarcerated in failing, dangerous schools. It’s evidence of the indomitable human spirit that, despite horrible circumstances, many low-income unmarried black mothers understand the importance of getting their child educated and will do whatever it takes to get their kid into a decent school. And yet when they try, they are convicted, jailed, fined, and sent back to the plantation.

The NAACP is working on behalf on the Connecticut mother, questioning the severity and possible racial implications of the charges. Supposedly there have been 26 recent cases of kids removed from this district because of residency issues but with no criminal charges. Why suddenly charges against this particular woman?

But let’s not forget that the NAACP has consistently opposed school voucher initiatives and has been a stalwart defender of the public school system that traps these kids and prohibits the freedom and flexibility that these mothers seek.

Here and there around the country, blacks are waking up to the importance of education freedom.

In Illinois, black pastor and state Sen. James Meeks has been fighting for vouchers that would give kids trapped in Chicago’s failing schools a way out. The D.C. Scholarship program, now being revived by House Republicans, was initiated by black mother Virginia Walden Ford.

Nothing contributes more to the growing income gaps in the country than disparities in education, and the impact continues to grow.

We shouldn’t be returning black children to public school plantations and punishing their mothers. They need education freedom and school choice. This is the civil rights issue of our time.

Star Parker is president of CURE, the Center for Urban Renewal and Education. Her columns are syndicated by the Scripps Howard News Service.

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