Building Support for School Choice From the Grassroots Up

 

Building Support for School Choice
From the Grassroots Up

By Clark Neily

When Virginia Walden Ford speaks about school choice, people listen. They listen because when it comes to turning school choice from a dream into reality, Virginia knows what she’s talking about. She knows how to identify and organize parents who will fight for choice, how to craft a message and get it out to the media and the community, and how to make sure legislators understand they will be held accountable for standing in the way of educational opportunity for low-income children.

 

Virginia Walden Ford at the Chicago event, co-sponsored by the Illinois School Choice Initiative and IJ.

 

In short, when it comes to grass-roots activism for school choice, Virginia Walden Ford wrote the book. Literally. The book is called Voices, Choices, and Second Chances, and it tells the story of (and lessons learned in) Virginia’s remarkable fight to bring school choice to Washington, D.C. Through a multi-state tour organized by IJ, Virginia has been traveling the country this fall promoting her book as a blueprint for parents seeking an escape route from some of the nation’s worst public schools. On October 20, IJ’s Director of Communications Lisa Knepper and I were honored to join Virginia in Chicago, where she offered instruction and inspiration to over 100 activists and parents who want to do for the children of Chicago what she helped do in Washington, D.C., where the D.C. School Choice Incentive Program provides scholarships of up to $7,500 to 1,700 low-income children.

Although she says she still feels nervous, Virginia is truly in her element when standing before a group of parents and telling them, based on her own personal experience, how school choice can turn a child’s life around and what they can do to secure choice in their own communities.

Parents are central to the success of the choice movement. Virginia’s experience will help them maximize their impact. We look forward to helping Virginia spread those ideas for years to come and to celebrating with her as they continue to take root and flourish.

Clark Neily is an IJ senior attorney.

 

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