Parents face few options in fight for better education (VIDEO)

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Brooklyn, New York – Wayne McKenzie wasn’t satisfied with the schools his Crown Heights neighborhood had to offer his children.

”[As parents], we feel it’s our duty to get the kids, our kids, in the best schools possible and sometimes those schools are out of your neighborhood,” he said.

McKenzie was able to send his two youngest sons to a private school in lower Manhattan which caters to low-income families. But the Brooklyn father said he sympathizes with parents who cannot afford a similar solution.

Earlier this year, an Ohio mother was convicted of multiple felonies and served jail time for falsifying her home address to get her two children into better schools.

“Sad as this situation is, falsifying documents to defraud a school is no different than falsifying documents to defraud a doctor, a plumber or anyone else,” wrote columnist Bob Dyer in Akron’s Beacon Journal newspaper.

The mother, Kelley Williams-Bolar, did receive support from civil rights leaders such as Rev. Al Sharpton, who said she should be ‘saluted’ not arrested for her actions.

A Connecticut mother, Tanya McDowell, is facing similar charges for allegedly enrolling her son into a school district using her babysitter’s address.

Some urban education experts say the issue is larger than the parents.

“These are parents who want nothing more than what every other parent wants for their children and that’s a quality education,” said Carlos McCray, co-author of Cultural Collision: Reflections on Hip-Hop Culture, Values and Schools. “These parents recognize that [education] is the gateway to the American dream. Just like any other parent would.”

McCray says failing public schools are also at fault.

“There’s a message here and the message is we have to become more serious [as a country] with regard to making sure that all children receive an equitable education.”

The number of students nationwide who are found to be illegally enrolled each year is not readily known. Education departments in large city school districts are trying to lessen the burden on parents by presenting more choices like charter schools.

“The waiting list for charter schools this year is 51,000 [students] and change,” said Valerie Babb, director of the New York-based Charter Parent Action Network. “New York, for example, has made some great strides with charter schools, but we’re not were we need to be just yet.”

McKenzie said he hopes the two cases spark action and changes in underserved school districts nationwide.

“The road to success in this country, as a matter of fact in this country, is education,” McKenzie insists. “The future of [our youth] is the future of this country.”

Follow theGrio’s Todd Johnson on Twitter at @rantoddj