School Choice

The Movie Miss Virginia Powerfully Dramatizes the Urgent Need for School Choice

Virginia Walden Ford talks about her role in integrating schools in the 1960s and leading a movement to escape failing public schools four decades later.

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What's it like to have your life story told on the big screen?

The new movie Miss Virginia is based on the unlikely story of Virginia Walden Ford, who, as a single mother in Washington, D.C., in the early 2000s, fought to create a federally-funded private school voucher program that would allow poor kids—including her son—to escape failing public schools. Against long odds and institutional hostility, she succeeded and is played with fiery passion by Orange Is the New Black's Uzo Aduba. Matthew Modine, known for roles in Full Metal Jacket, Weeds, and Stranger Things, co-stars as a sympathetic congressman who helps win congressional authorization for the program.

The movie opens in select theaters and on streaming services on October 18. Go here for more information.

Walden Ford's own backstory as a student is both harrowing and inspirational. She was among the early waves of black kids that integrated public schools in Little Rock, Arkansas, an experience that informed her actions as a parent. Her memoir of growing up in the segregated South and becoming a major figure in education reform, School Choice: A Legacy To Keep, will be published on November 21. Go here for more information.

In a wide-ranging interview with Reason's Nick Gillespie, Walden Ford discusses the behind-the-scenes story of creating the Opportunity Scholarship Program, which has helped thousands of low-income students in the District of Columbia attend private schools, what it was like to have a cross burned in her yard in Arkansas, the mixed blessing of having an unpopular president (Donald Trump) supporting school choice, and her disappointment with the current crop of Democratic presidential candidates, none of whom support school choice.

Produced and edited by Meredith Bragg. Shot by Bragg and Jim Epstein.

Photos:

Olivier Douliery/SIPA/Newscom
ROBERT MOORHEAD/UPI/Newscom
Michael Nigro/Pacific Press/Newscom

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  1. School Choice the Movie doesn’t really sound like an action-packed thrill ride.

    1. “the mixed blessing of having an unpopular president (Donald Trump) supporting school choice, and her disappointment with the current crop of Democratic presidential candidates, none of whom support school choice.”

      Has she considered voting for someone who’s not a Democrat?

      1. It’s almost like the Democratic Party really doesn’t represent the interests of many of its constituencies, especially Black people.

    2. It’s definitely not an action flick, but the sex scenes are smoking hot.

    3. Gotta be better than the yearly crop of Leftist ‘Message Movies’. But then, so is watching paint dry.

  2. a federally-funded private school voucher program

    So – DC has one of the lowest prop tax rates (0.46%) in the US – and significantly lower than its burbs – MD (0.87%) and VA (0.74). A higher average income than any state (much of which is earned by sucking the taxpayer teat). And yet somehow everyone else in the US is supposed to pay because the teat-suckers have no interest in even carrying their weight and governing themselves competently at the local level?

  3. A movie that’s pro school choice?

    Where am I? What year is this?

    1. Yeah, got me to wondering how this happened,especially with actual Hollywood stars.

      The Proggie reactions is going to be awesome. I am looking forward to a compendium of Proggie reviews.

        1. Ooh, the LA Times reviewer uses the n-word –

          “Aduba’s impassioned speeches about fairness and opportunity are undeniably moving. But the spotlight the film attempts to shine on a complicated subject ends up being blinding, obliterating all nuance.”

          1. Nell Minow from rogerebert.com –

            “”Miss Virginia” is the handsomely produced first feature film from the right-wing-funded Motion Picture Institute, which describes itself as creating and supporting “high-impact film and video content designed to entertain, inspire, and educate audiences with captivating stories about human freedom.” But this film demonizes the other side, which only undermines the credibility of the argument they are making. The most persuasive advocates are those who are confident enough in their own position that they do not have to distort the other side.”

            1. …and don’t get her started on the one-sidedness of “Glory.”

            2. But this film demonizes the other side,

              While Hollywood never does the same. [/sarc]

            3. You can tell the total lack of self-awareness when actual, anti-freedom authoritarian slavers complain that their shitty opinions are being “demonized.” No, they’re being called out.

  4. “the mixed blessing of having an unpopular president (Donald Trump) supporting school choice, and her disappointment with the current crop of Democratic presidential candidates, none of whom support school choice.”

    Has she considered voting for someone who’s not a Democrat?

  5. Her grandfather was born a slave, and bought his younger siblings out of slavery? I figure he must have been born by 1840 at the very latest for that to be true. And then he must have waited until at least age 50 to have her father or mother, and he or she must have waited until at least age 50 to have her. It’s all about credibility. And I want to support her!

    1. It could be that “grandfather” here is used as shorthand for “ancestor”. Depending on how many generations back her ancestor might be, it would be easier to say “grandfather” rather than “great-great-grandfather”.

      Additionally, while rare, there *are* people who have children in their fifties, so it’s not impossible that she literally *is* talking about a grandfather who did this.

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  7. Great movie, it opened individual’s perspective about the said matter. Keep the thread going!
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