As we continue to promote school choice around our great nation, especially during Black History Month, I have been thinking a lot about my own educational journey, first as a black child in the 1960s entering predominately White Little Rock Central High School and what that meant to me, then as a mother fighting for my son William to receive a quality education in the 1990s.
I think about how both of our lives were changed with the opportunity for him to attend a school of our choice. I know that it made a huge difference in his successful educational experience—and ultimately his entire life—to have been educated in an environment that met his particular needs.
The opportunity for William to attend a private school that met his needs, that I chose, inspired me to fight for the same opportunity for children throughout Washington, D.C. In 2003, that opportunity became a reality for families in the nation’s capital, when President George W. Bush signed the D.C. School Choice Incentive Act into law, authorizing the creation of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (DCOSP).
Even though I’m now living and working on school choice in Arkansas, I always keep a close eye on the DCOSP. It has been life-changing for thousands of students in Washington. It provides scholarships to children from low-income families to attend private schools of choice, giving them educational options that were once far out of reach.
Recently, I have been following Senator Tim Scott’s (R–SC) proposal to allow unspent funds from the DCOSP to be used for new scholarships. This would create a small but important expansion of this vital program for more of D.C.’s children.
I have been honored, as I have worked to advance school choice options over the decades, to help educate and inform parents in D.C. and empower them to use their voices to fight for their children’s futures—a voice that would lead to truly making a difference in how their children are educated. Heritage president Jim DeMint, in his video, has honored me and has brought to the forefront the scores of parents who stood shoulder to shoulder with legislators and advocates to make sure that children could and would receive the education they deserved.
In his forthcoming book, Falling in Love with America Again, Senator DeMint illustrates how everyday citizens are working tirelessly to ensure that America’s “future fulfills the promise of its beginnings.” I believe fighting for choice in education is one of those ways Americans across the country are working to ensure that their children are able to take advantage of all of the promises and opportunity America holds.
—Virginia Walden Ford is a visiting fellow at The Heritage Foundation.