National School Choice Week

The Story Behind Miss Virginia Exemplifies The Moral Case for School Choice

As a black child growing up in Arkansas, Virginia Walden Ford fought her way into segregated schools. As an adult, she fought to get her son out of failing public schools.

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Today marks the start of National School Choice Week, an annual event designed to "raise public awareness of the different K-12 education options available to children and families while also spotlighting the benefits of school choice." The organizers promote all forms of school choice, from publicly funded charter schools to tuition tax credits to educational savings accounts (ESAs) to private-scholarship programs to homeschooling and beyond. National School Choice Week first launched in 2011 and this year, parents, student, educators, and activists will host over 51,000 events nationwide. Go here to find events in your area and go here for past Reason coverage.

If one figure embodies the moral case for giving parents and students greater ability to select their preferred form of K-12 education, it's Virginia Walden Ford, whose story is told in last year's Miss Virginia. Growing up in Arkansas, she was among the first wave of African Americans who integrated public schools in Little Rock, Arkansas in the late 1950s and early 1960s. As a single parent in Washington, D.C., she organized parents in the early 2000s and fought to create the Opportunity Scholarship Program, a federally-funded private school voucher program has allowed thousands of poor kids—including her son—to escape failing public schools.

Miss Virginia tells that story, as does her memoir, also released last fall. Here message is both political and personal, understated and powerful as the loudest protest chant: Trust parents to do what is right and give them the means to find schools that fit the unique needs of each child.

Here's the interview I did with her last fall, in which she talks about the grim intersection of race and education policy in the United States, what it's like to have a cross burnt in your front yard, why she thinks school choice should be a non-partisan issue, the mixed-blessing of having Donald Trump being the best president to date on school choice, and her disappointment at the hostility toward school choice evinced by the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates.

NEXT: More reactions to my New York Times Op-Ed

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  1. We have to remember that the Democratic stance on ‘education’ has little to do with education, and a lot to do with unions and indoctrination.
    And “choice” is a word they only allow in relation to infanticide.

    1. The Republican stance on education is heavy on nonsense, superstition, and resentment of educated, modern, decent, better Americans.

      No wonder the conservatives are losing the culture war and being concentrated into increasingly desolate parts of the country.

      1. “concentrated,” eh? Maybe you want to build some kind of camps for them.

        1. Especially if he gets to shove his creepy cock in their mouths while in those camps.

          He’s a sick twisted fuck.

      2. You do realize that libertarians and conservatives are not at all the same, right?

        Oh, wait. I didn’t realize who it was. Never mind. You realizing anything from reading article and comments here is highly unlikely.

      3. It looks to me that the Dems are the concentrated ones.
        http://www-personal.umich.edu/~mejn/election/2016/countymaprb1024.png

      4. It’s sad that us white folks have to take on the burdens of taking care of the lesser races and this is the thanks we get. We give them food stamps and welfare and tenement housing so they can live as free and easy as a zoo animal and yet some of them get uppity and start wanting to think for themselves instead of just doing what they’re told for their own good. Why, next thing you know, some of them might even vote Republican.

  2. the only way to put a stake in the current union ownership of public education is to home school. With declining numbers in the woke public school districts people will finally beat school budget votes which are always won by the union and PTA moms…and then each family will be give “x” dollars to spend for education..

  3. “why she thinks school choice should be a non-partisan issue”

    …let her share why she thinks Presidential elections should be nonpartisan, too, while she’s at it.

    “the mixed-blessing of having Donald Trump being the best president to date on school choice”

    …she likes him but doesn’t want to kiss him on the lips.

    “and her disappointment at the hostility toward school choice evinced by the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates”

    …by “disappointment,” I presume you don’t mean “surprise.”

    1. “the mixed-blessing of having Donald Trump being the best president to date on school choice”
      …she likes him but doesn’t want to kiss him on the lips.

      Mixed blessing meaning she can’t see past his skin color.

  4. OT – Ross Douthat, one of the NYT’s kept conservatives, thinks Trump is regressing to an earlier, more corrupt political style:

    “…it’s been apparent for a while that Trump doesn’t want to be an American Mussolini so much as he wants to be a less legislatively minded L.B.J. — meaning that his conception of the presidency belongs to the middle of the 20th century, when a casual corruption was more commonplace, and presidents routinely used their powers to spy on political opponents (as L.B.J. did to Barry Goldwater) or undermine them, enable their private appetites (cough, J.F.K.) and cover up their scandals.”

      1. School choice will always be a non-starter so long as teachers unions are tolerated. Much like police unions, their sole purpose is to shield the worst teachers from any consequences or reprisals. A cop who bullies and even shoots innocents usually has nothing to fear beyond extra vacation, and a teacher who turns an innocent kid into a functionally illiterate and innumerate adult has nothing to fear beyond automatic pay increases based on years in the job and a generous pension upon retirement.

        1. This was not meant to be a response to the link.

        2. This is one of the things that annoyed me about Neal Boortz, when he go off on one of his rants about how terrible our educational system is. The United States has by far the best public educational system in the world and if you don’t agree it’s only because you’re confused about the purpose of the system. Nigerian princes are in awe of what a fantastically successful con the educational system has managed to pull off, convincing the public the purpose is to educate children when it’s so obviously to transfer money and power to the educational bureaucracy. And how can you not agree that they’ve been amazingly successful at it?

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  6. The only moral choice is for all schooling to be private.

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  9. The only successful public education systems exits in wealthy suburban districts where:

    1) the parents for the most part care because the students do
    2) They throw piles of $$’s at it until it is acceptable.

    Most other districts suck . The school board is beholden to the employees not the students since the students have no choice So of course people want to choose out of them. Who doesn’t want such a choice.

    here is a game we can play, put “public: in front of anything and let me know if its better than with private in front of it.

    Examples education, transportation ,housing

    So far Private 3 Public 0

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