Open Enrollment | July 4, 2024

Reflec⁠t⁠⁠i⁠ng on Independence Day

By Kelley Williams-Bolar

Nearly 250 years after our nation’s founding, sometimes the best way to celebrate our independence is reflecting on losing it.

In 2011, I was arrested and charged with a felony. My crime? “Theft of public education.” See, my daughter was zoned to a dangerous and underperforming public school, and so we used my father’s address to access a different public school that was safer and a more supportive learning environment.

This school was the next town over, and the public school district accused me of stealing “public” education. They put me in jail for it.

It was a harrowing ordeal, but I’m grateful for those who rallied to my side and helped me overcome it to become the youth mentor and educator I am today.  I’m proud to work alongside advocates to advance a country where no parent is put in the situation I faced – where it is a choice between a better education for their child or jail.

Yet today, nearly half of states still have penalties on the books for parents like me. Thousands of families still participate in what I call the “Underground Railroad for public education” because using the address of a friend or family member may be the only lifeline for some families trying to get their kid into a school where they are safe, happy, and learning.

Like our nation’s quest for independence, my story remains woven together in a pursuit for freedom. Freedom for every family and every student to access a school that meets their needs, where a ZIP code doesn’t limit their educational options, and where all children have robust options.

Which is why on this holiday, I remain positively optimistic, because as Dr. Martin Luther King said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”

On behalf of the No More Lines coalition and parents from throughout the United States, I wish you a very joyous, free, and celebratory Independence Day.


Kelley Williams-Bolar

No More Lines Fellow