Dr. Joan Davis Ratteray (1948-2004)

Published July 1, 2004

Dr. Joan Davis Ratteray, president of the Institute for Independent Education and a strong advocate for parental choice and black independent schools, died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on May 26, 2004 after a three-year battle with cancer.

Ratteray’s research into black independent schools revealed a rich history of African-American efforts to support educational institutions in their communities. She founded the Institute for Independent Education in Washington, DC in 1984 to provide technical assistance to independent community-based schools.

Ratteray also worked to influence education policy through newspaper articles and radio and television interviews. In powerful testimony before a Presidential commission 17 years ago, she described how most black Americans attended inner-city schools “that have become the dregs of the nation’s education system.” She spoke of the promise of choice:

“[I]ndependent schools represent the power of parental choice. They exist because quality education is not just a luxury for the well-to-do. They challenge public schools to be competitive without the infusion of larger and larger sums of tax dollars. They are islands of excellence, and some of them are models for innovations in public institutions.”

Daughter of the late Semiriah and Lila Calhoun Davis, and a native of Bibb County, Georgia, she is survived by her husband, Oswald Ratteray; her children, Charles and Carolyn Ratteray; and her siblings, Geneva Causey and Bruce Davis. In lieu of flowers, the family requests mourners make a donation to an independent school scholarship fund. A list of schools by area is provided in the directory at the Institute’s Web site at http://www.independenteducation.org.