The True Story Behind ‘Miss Virginia’
When the topic of school choice comes up in the public square, the conversation often devolves into arguments over dollars and cents, or abstract concepts of what public education should look like. What gets overlooked is the real-life, human impact that school choice can have on a student’s life.
My friend Virginia Walden Ford didn’t have a choice, at least initially, for her son. He was struggling in his assigned public school in a rough neighborhood in the District of Columbia. He saw his colleagues beaten by peers for being smart. He chronically skipped school, and began to hang out with a bad crowd. Virginia knew that there were only two paths for her son: remain part of the school to prison pipeline, or attend a new school.
Virginia couldn’t afford private school tuition, on her own, but with the support of generous friends, her son was able to attend a private school that met his needs. But she wasn’t satisfied. Personal as it was, she knew her story was not unique – thousands of parents across Washington, D.C. felt similarly stuck. They needed a choice ASAP.
So Virginia decided to take action. She organized parents in the District who were also tired of waiting for change that was promised by those in power but never came. She canvassed door to door, block to block, project to project, obtaining thousands of signatures in support for scholarships for low-income students to attend a private school.
Virginia and dozens of parents flooded the halls of Congress to make the case for their children’s futures. She was told over and over that the task was insurmountable, that Congress would never pass a school choice bill.
But the most improbable thing happened – Congress listened. They came together to pass the bill and make School Choice a reality for thousands of low-income families in D.C. The Opportunity Scholarship Program has since offered tens of thousands of students a chance at a better education to put them on the path to success.
Now Virginia’s story is told in the new feature film, Miss Virginia. Uzo Adoba (Orange is the New Black) stars as Virginia, a performance co-star Matthew Modine (Stranger Things) describes as “Oscar-worthy.” The movie will be released November 1st, available in theaters and on select streaming services.
It really is a terrific film. And it gets to the heart of what school choice really is: an opportunity for low-income families who just want something better for their children. In the Land of Opportunity, that’s something we should all support.