I’m a single mom from the city. School choice has changed my kids’ lives forever.

By Virginia Walden Ford | The Daily Signal

Fifteen years ago, I found myself feeling hopeless and helpless in the nation’s capital.

My children’s school situation was dismal. My older kids were academically driven, yet faced a steady stream of challenges. My youngest seemed completely overwhelmed and destined for failure.

And when I looked around my neighborhood, I saw the same dismal situation playing out with my neighbors’ kids.


There are 40,000 events planned nationwide for this year’s National School Choice Week, which runs Jan. 20 to Jan. 26, 2019

That was in 2004, just as Washington, D.C., was about to implement its Opportunity Scholarship Program. Although my son was awarded a scholarship from a neighbor, it was that action that pushed me to fight for all kids in D.C. to have the same choices.

Fifteen years later, fellow parents and I have witnessed a sea change in our kids’ education, with more than 10,000 scholarships awarded to attend private schools. These scholarships have helped deserving low-income kids escape to a school that will put them on track to a bright future.

With D.C. being under Congress’ jurisdiction, it was Congress that passed this school choice program.

It took D.C. parents years of advocating for their children before Congress responded. In 2003, Congress passed the D.C. Parental Choice Incentive Act, which President George W. Bush signed into law on Jan. 23, 2004.

Seeing the results in the lives of children has been so wonderful. I have watched children who received scholarships thrive in the schools that they and their parents chose. I’ve seen them graduate and go on to attend college, and then graduate there.

These are the same kids that many thought would never be successful. They are now holding good jobs and contributing to society in so many positive ways.

As we celebrate the 15th anniversary of this incredible program, my heart and my spirits are continually raised. I often run into families who have benefited and get an update on how their children are doing, and it always makes me proud.

As difficult as it was for us during the initial fight, and even afterward, seeing what this program has done to change the lives of so many families has made every tough moment worthwhile.

So many people didn’t think a ragtag group of low-income parents could effectively fight to ensure our kids the best education possible. But we knew differently. We knew that if we raised our voices, we could win for our children.

We did. And now our kids are winning as a result.

Image courtesy of SchoolChoiceWeek.com

6 thoughts on “I’m a single mom from the city. School choice has changed my kids’ lives forever.

  1. This has to be scary for the VT Educational system, NEA, Labor Unions, School Boards, massive property taxation, Legislators (mainly of Chittenden County) Act 46. They’ll loose control of the people and their youngsters. I doubt that the school staff to student ration would remain at 3:1 (such as in Townshend), very expensive. When I was in school a few years ago, the staff ratio was about 25:1. We didn’t have a drug or gun problem either.

    • Amazing how they don’t look into what has changed, what brought about our drug and violence problem, self reflection is not a strong point for Vermont.

      No, Vermont will struggle and the lobbyists will fight, and it good Vermonters don’t cooperate and pool efforts to support good causes and turn down bad causes, will continue our slow spiral into more poverty and hopelessness.

      You see, there is really, really good money in keeping people poor. The benefits cliff is real, and it’s on purpose, you see if they can’t keep you in generational poverty, they’ll loose their job. If they can’t grow more poverty in our state, then they can’t grow their government programs, get more lobbyist money, get re-elected to their position of power that they cling to like a last gasp of air on your third bob of going down under the water. The quest for power is stronger than life itself it seems.

      An affordable home to own for $600 per month, is a landing pad from poverty trap.
      A good job is a landing pad from the poverty trap.
      A strong family is like the Kennedy Space Station from which to build and people from the poverty trap we call Montpelier Big City Social.
      Strong laws chasing down the drug dealers and criminals makes for nice Vermont safe space in which to raise a family.

      A self reflective Vermont, could bring about some good fruit.

      • Our Republic is in jeopardy.

        “In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.”

        Progressives believe the Laws of Nature entitle them to their tyranny in so much as the rest of us believe the Laws of Nature entitle us, including Progressives, to freedom and liberty. But for Progressives to be so generous is to admit the catastrophe of their credence. As Benj. Franklin warned, “democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch”.

        I fear the worst.

  2. School Choice has advantaged psychological standing as well. Self Determination Theory, “the examination of intrinsic motivation, … the human tendency toward learning and creativity”, explains why the act of making choices (i.e. having autonomy) enhances individual fulfillment and well-being.

    “Perhaps no single phenomenon reflects the positive potential of human nature as much as intrinsic motivation, the inherent tendency to seek out novelty and challenges, to extend and exercise one’s capacities, to explore, and to learn.”

    School Choice creates a “natural inclination toward assimilation, mastery, spontaneous interest, and exploration that is so essential to cognitive and social development and that represents a principal source of enjoyment and vitality throughout life.”

    School Choice addresses the “… three innate psychological needs–competence, autonomy, and relatedness– which when satisfied yield enhanced self-motivation and mental health and when thwarted lead to diminished motivation and well-being.”

    The converse is also true. “[T]he more students were externally regulated the less they showed interest, value, and effort toward achievement and the more they tended to disown responsibility for negative outcomes, blaming others such as the teacher.”

    Even more surprisingly, there is “a more positive relation between autonomy and collectivistic attitudes than between autonomy and individualistic attitudes.”

    In other words, “…by failing to provide supports for competence, autonomy, and relatedness, not only of children but also of students, employees, patients, and athletes, socializing agents and organizations contribute to alienation and ill-being. Recent research indicates that “self-determined students were more likely to have achieved more positive adult outcomes including being employed at a higher rate and earning more per hour than peers who did not possess these skills”(Wehmeyer & Schwartz, 1997).

    School Choice is the manifestation of the American Experiment:
    “…to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.

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