A woman is accused of stealing the cost of her child’s public education.
No, it’s not the story of Tonya McDowell, the Bridgeport woman who was arrested and pled guilty to first-degree larceny in 2011 for stealing $15,686 (the cost of her son’s education) from the Norwalk School District.
In that case, McDowell’s son was kicked out of Norwalk’s Brookside Elementary School in December 2010, when the City of Norwalk realized that McDowell didn’t live in Norwalk. McDowell, who was homeless at the time, was using her babysitter’s Norwalk address to enroll her son in the local Norwalk school. In addition to being arrested and convicted of a crime, McDowell’s babysitter was evicted from her public housing for being an accomplice to a crime.
No, this is a different case.
One that relates much more directly to education policy in Connecticut, because the person is waiting for the Connecticut House of Representatives to vote on her nomination to the Connecticut State Board of Education..
In this alleged case of stealing public education, the year was 2002, and the woman had moved from Windsor to Hartford to take a job with Mayor Eddie Perez.
The woman, Andrea Comer, is Governor Malloy’s most recent nominee for the State Board of Education. Comer presently works as the Chief Operations Officer for FUSE/Jumoke, the charter school management company that operates Jumoke Academy, Jumoke Academy at Milner and is seeking permission to expand its operations into other Hartford schools.
In Comer’s case, despite moving to Hartford, Comer kept her daughter in Windsor’s Sage Park Middle School. She explained that she didn’t want to disrupt her child’s education.
Comer appealed to the Windsor Board of Education for a waiver from the residency requirement, but they denied her request. According to a December 2002 Hartford Courant article, Windsor officials told her that “said she could stay in the school system if Comer paid tuition.”
She appealed to the hearing division of the state department of education, but was denied there as well.
She certainly knew the residency rules, but failed to enroll her daughter in a Hartford School despite the fact that she lived in Hartford,
The Windsor Board of Education had enough and sent her a bill for $5,120, the value of the education Windsor taxpayers were paying for someone who wasn’t even a resident.
At the time, Comer told the Courant that she didn’t intend to pay the tuition bill.
The president of the Windsor Board of Education defended their approach saying that residency rules are clear-cut, adding, `it’s not that we don’t feel for the families, but we have to follow the policy.’
There appear to be no media reports about how the issue was finally resolved, but it is interesting that the issue was never raised during Comer’s recent hearing before the General Assembly’s Executive and Legislative Nominations Committee.
The Norwalk case produced hundreds of stories around the nation and led to major rallies and calls for action both for and against those who would steal public education.
Comer’s case produced one story and little to no follow-up.
Of course, in Comer’s case she was an up and coming player in the Hartford political scene.
And just five years earlier, Comer had been a Hartford Courant reporter… Covering, at least in part, the Windsor Schools.