Homeless Mom Charged with Larceny for ‘Stealing’ Son’s Public Education

Tanya McDowell, 33, now faces a 20-year jail sentence for making off with $15,686 in education funds from the Norwalk school district.

By Julianne Hing Apr 26, 2011

A homeless Connecticut mother has been arrested and charged with larceny for allegedly stealing her son’s education from a public school police say he had no right to attend. Tanya McDowell is a 33-year-old Bridgeport resident who used her babysitter’s address in Norwalk, where the schools were better, so her five-year-old son Andres Justin Paches could go to school. A.J. was enrolled in Brookside Elementary School’s kindergarten from September to January. They’ve been living out of her van.

And for her supposed crime, McDowell is facing a 20-year jail sentence for making off with $15,686 in education funds from the Norwalk school district, the Stamford Advocate reported. What’s more, McDowell’s babysitter Ana Rebecca Marques has been evicted from the public housing complex she lived in for helping McDowell. McDowell is set to be arraigned on Wednesday morning.

"I had no idea whatsoever that if you enroll your child in another school district, it becomes a crime," McDowell told the paper after she was arrested and charged with first-degree larceny.

McDowell’s story echoes that of Kelley Williams-Bolar, an Ohio mom who was sentenced to ten days in prison for using her father’s home address to get her daughters into a neighboring school district’s wealthier schools. Together, the two women owe over $45,000 to the school districts they turned to in their fight to give their kids better educational opportunities.

The AP offered a little context for the uptick in prosecutions of parents who’ve sought to get their kids into better public schools:

Education officials say cases tend to surface more when budgets are tight and in areas where there are significant disparities between districts such as in academic success or local income level – particularly in wealthier districts near urban areas. That often means the districts in question also have racial disparities.

"I am a mother, and I want to make sure my kids are safe, and I want to make sure that they’re educated," Bolar-Williams said at the time.

After a rush of public outrage, Williams-Bolar’s charges were eventually dismissed. The two women are standing by each other. Williams-Bolar is scheduled to be at a Wednesday press conference that an education advocacy group has planned to protest McDowell’s arrest.