A coalition of parents’ rights activists have reignited the fight for school choice for Virginia’s families with the help of The Heritage Foundation.

Virginia’s Thomas Jefferson Institute has pushed for education reform in the Old Dominion for years, including through its Virginia Education Opportunity Alliance, a parents’ rights coalition. A $150,000 Innovation Prize grant from Heritage in 2022 has since helped the institute reach out to the broader school choice movement and grow its coalition to advocate for greater educational freedom throughout the commonwealth. (The Daily Signal is the news outlet of The Heritage Foundation.) 

According to Thomas Jefferson Institute President Derrick Max, the grant provided “a unique opportunity for our coalition to jump-start the education choice movement in Virginia, where it has lain moribund for decades.”

In a phone interview on April 3, Max said the alliance connects all aspects of the political sphere together: “Three major think tanks, the Family Foundation, Heritage Action [for America], [and] a bunch of others are all on the same page and [are] all pushing the same direction because of the coalition.”

Reflecting on what still needs to be done, Max said he hopes the alliance can “reach out to minority communities, particularly in areas where schools are failing the most.” He said the group has seen success with informing parents in different left-leaning areas of Virginia, like Richmond, the state capital, and the Hampton Roads area. 

The coalition uses a myriad of methods to engage Virginia communities. Word-of-mouth, social media campaigns, and “outreach coordinators” who hold meetings in their various communities all help to reach people throughout the state, including minority groups. 

Max said that the coalition is unique because it brings public policy think tanks and political groups together to formulate plans and execute them through one voice.

The Thomas Jefferson Institute is a 25-year-old Virginia public policy organization dedicated to “changing lives through freedom and opportunity,” according to its website. The institute conducts research on a broad spectrum of subjects and distributes that research to conservatives and “persuadable middle,” politically moderate Virginians.

The Heritage Innovation Prize provides substantial financial awards totaling up to $1 million annually to results-oriented nonprofits for projects involving research, litigation, education, outreach, or communications; particularly those focused on empowering parents in education, holding Big Tech accountable, countering the threat of the Chinese Communist Party, securing America’s borders and reducing crime, ensuring free and fair elections, reducing the growth of spending and inflation, and promoting life and family formation.