Editor’s note: In October 2005, Virginia Walden Ford–executive director of D.C. Parents for School Choice, the organizing force behind the two-year-old and at-capacity school voucher program in the District of Columbia–spoke at a luncheon hosted by the Illinois School Choice Initiative, a project of The Heartland Institute, about the D.C. School Choice Incentive Act passed by Congress in 2003. Her comments are excerpted below in the last of a several-part series.
Some good things happened to us. Our mayor, who was a Democrat and came into our effort halfway through, supported us. We had council people that stood up and put themselves in political jeopardy by supporting us. We had legislators, senators, and congressmen that voted our way.
We had wonderful things that happened, and a lot of support that ultimately came about, but I assure you the grassroots effort was the icing. It was an incredible effort.
Of course we won, as most people know. It was a wonderful, wonderful win for the parents of the District of Columbia. Low-income parents were not accustomed to raising their voices, having them heard, and being successful and getting what they needed for their families.
So we’re now working with the organization that administers the scholarship program. On the first day we had a meeting and somebody asked if I could organize parents for this effort, to sit down and talk with parents who are the recipients of the scholarships. It has been a grand, grand thing for me.
Last week we had a dinner in celebration of this program, and 500 of those parents were there and their children–176 children. They came right from school, because it was an early evening meal, and they were in uniform, their faces shining, their parents smiling.
I got hugs that night, many hugs. It was just incredible. It was a magical night. I remember looking out at the audience and thinking, “I promised them we would be here one day, and here we are.” And that’s where you have to go.
For more information …
Voices, Choices, and Second Chances: How to Win the Battle to Bring Opportunity Scholarships to Your State, by Virginia Walden Ford, can be purchased from Amazon.com.