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Can a parent 'steal' an education for their child?

Parents face prosecution for sending child to school beyond their neighborhood. By GLORIA ROMERO / Register columnist In, "Les Miserables," Victor Hugo's classic novel, a man is sentenced to prison for five years for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his family. Today, in Montgomery County, Pa., a couple is facing up to seven years imprisonment for "stealing" an education for their child. As incredible as it seems, is this a modern-day, American "Les Miserables"? Prosecution and defense lawyers were in court last week in what has become the mostwatched education-related trial in the nation. It figures to affect parents across the nation. Could something similar happen in California? Hamlet and Olesia Garcia were arrested and charged with "theft of education services" for having enrolled their 5-year-old daughter, Fiorella, in a school outside their approved local education-agency boundary. The Garcias had temporarily separated, with Mrs. Garcia taking the child to live with her and her father in Montgomery County – not far from the Garcias' Philadelphia-area home. The couple soon reconciled, but decided to keep their child in the Montgomery County school until the end of the term in June so as to not further disrupt her life. The Pennsylvania Penal Code contains a "theft of services" statute. Legal experts, however, said the statute is intended to prosecute such offenses as stealing cable boxes or utility services. "I have never seen anything like this," commented the Garcias' attorney, Ricardo Corona. "Anybody that would try to bring charges against a father here using the guise of a statute more designed to stop cable piracy would probably be laughed out of court. The statute doesn't fit." And yet, a family from the city of Brotherly Love find itself in court, facing an ambitious prosecutor, who many believe has eyes on higher elected office under a "law and order"

which have not included education. Corona said he chose to defend the Garcias because. who came to America in 1960. he is a Cuban immigrant. legal staff for the California Senate Public Safety Committee. the Garcia case grinds along. Jerry McGuire. stymieing prosecution under theft statutes. utilities. But the one thing that couldn't be taken was your education. It shouldn't happen here. The Legislature's silence on "education theft.platform." "This is America. like Mr. because legislators have enacted specific types of theft-of-services offenses over the years. For families trapped in a chronically underperforming school. Are we willing to sanction school districts to use public funds to hire private investigators in order to investigate separated couples? Where's the ACLU? Public school students in California are generally assigned to schools by ZIP code. Twitter: @DFER_CA ." when other types of theft have been delineated. but I learned that. believes that a Garcia-type prosecution would be difficult here. attempts are sometimes made to find an exit route – perhaps by claiming the student resides with a relative who lives in a higher-performing district. Garcia. Statistics show that approximately half of all marriages end in divorce. It's not lost on the Garcias' supporters that the Montgomery County school in which the child was enrolled is affluent and almost entirely Caucasian. These include such felonies as theft of phone lines. even the defrauding of an innkeeper. preceded by a separation. Register opinion columnist Gloria Romero is an education reformer and former Democratic state senator from Los Angeles. In the meantime. Graduating seniors from the district often enroll at Harvard or Penn. whatever you have. can be taken away." Corona said. "We weren't wealthy. likely could be argued as intentional.