Miss Virginia Fought The Myths Surrounding School Choice And Won For DC Kids

Forbes Finance 1 month ago
Virginia Walden Ford on Capitol Hill
Virginia Walden Ford speaks to parents and lawmakers at a Capitol Hill rally.

Imagine sitting in a Congressional hearing room listening to testimony from one of your opponents, a public high school principal. He tells the collected members of the House of Representatives that the scholarship program you have labored on for years would literally “steal” from a school that “can’t even afford chalk.” At that point, I think most people would try to sneak out of the hearing and hide. But Virginia Walden Ford never hid when her opponents lobbed vicious charges at her. She confronted their myths head on, won a victory for DC students, and now her story is a movie showing on big and small screens all over the country—Miss Virginia.

Miss Virginia details the struggles of Ford and other families to establish the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program. These scholarships allow thousands of students to attend the private school that is best for them, not the school DC assigns them based on their zip code.

Wealthy enclaves in Northwest DC have some of the nation’s most exclusive and high-powered private schools and are also home to several quality public schools. Yet, the majority of DC public school students struggle in schools with low graduation rates and serious problems with crime and violence. Even promising students struggle to get a basic education. Two DC schools may be only miles apart, but worlds away.

In the film, Virginia’s son struggles to stay in his public high school and stay out of trouble. In a meeting at the school (which she enters only after checking in with an officer and passing through a metal detector), the principal tells Virginia that the school simply can’t worry very much about students who don’t want to be there. Students like her son, who was skipping out on classes.

Instead of giving up, Virginia enrolls her son at an orderly and creative private academy. He starts embracing school, but even with working nights as a janitor, Virginia can’t pay the tuition. As she is emptying a waste basket, she comes across a report about school spending showing just how much DC public schools spend per pupil—twice the amount of what she is trying to raise for her son’s tuition. Virginia then makes it her quest to create a new school choice scholarship program in DC modeled after existing programs in Milwaukee and Cleveland.

To accomplish that goal, Virginia has to overcome the myths put forth by the opposition, the first of which is that educational choice programs take money from public schools. Virginia’s response to the principal’s accusation that choice scholarships will “steal” from public schools is forceful: “I am done with this lie about money.”

At the time Virginia was fighting to establish the program, DC schools were spending an average of around $14,000 per pupil per year, among the highest in the nation. Spending had been rising consistently for years, yet academic progress had stagnated or declined. Even substantial increases in funding have often failed to make any progress. When President Obama’s Department of Education studied its own $3.5 billion investment in the nation’s worst performing schools, it concluded that the spending failed to produce any meaningful results.

The DC Opportunity Scholarship program was funded with federal dollars, not by shifting money from public schools to private schools. Over the years, per pupil spending continued to rise at DC schools and is now over $19,000 per pupil. Those further increases haven’t moved the needle much in DC, where 30 percent of students still don’t graduate on time.

Another prominent myth put forward by those who oppose educational choice programs is that students don’t benefit academically. That hasn’t proven to be the case in DC. Virginia saw that success firsthand when her son graduated as valedictorian in his class even though he was testing below grade level when he was in public school. Studies have shown that students receiving DC Opportunity Scholarships graduate from high school and attend college at higher rates.

Another charge lobbed at Virginia’s push for scholarships was that students remaining in the public schools would be worse off. In the film, a DC lawmaker says that Virginia’s plan will hurt poor people and signs shown in the film say that Virginia is “destroying our public schools.” To the contrary, there is overwhelming evidence that educational choice programs help struggling public schools.

There have been 34 empirical studies of the effects of these programs on public schools. In 32 of these studies there were positive effects on public schools. In DC specifically, researchers found that the program had no effect on public schools in part because the program was designed to minimize any effects.

Finally, a common misconception of educational choice programs is that they benefit only the best and brightest students from affluent families. This was never the case in DC, where students receiving scholarships came from families with an average income of just over $22,000—just barely above the poverty line. Again, affluent and upper middle-class DC residents already had access to quality private and public schools, it was economically struggling families who needed help.

In the movie, Virginia concludes her Congressional testimony by saying, “There is no opportunity if there is no education. You will not deny our children the right to learn.” In reality, it wasn’t one big speech that pushed the program over the line, it was years and years of consistent effort and combating the myths with solid facts.

While educational choice scholarships have grown nationwide in the 15 years since the events depicted in the movie, there are many places in the United States where there is either no educational choice program or where funds are maxed out and children are turned away each year. Miss Virginia is a story that will without a doubt inspire other parents to fight just as hard for children in their cities and states.

Tags: Business

Source link
Read also:
CNN › Entertainment › 3 days ago
For the first time, top beauty pageants — Miss USA, Miss Teen USA, Miss America and now, Miss Universe — have crowned black women as their winners at the same time. And that's a big deal if you know pageant history.
Business Insider › Lifestyle › 3 days ago
Miss South Africa Zozibini Tunzi was crowned Miss Universe 2019 on Sunday. Miss USA 2019, Cheslie Kryst, who also competed in this year's Miss Universe competition, shared an Instagram post on Monday acknowledging that Tunzi's win makes her the fourth...
Daily Mail Online › 2 months ago
A leading gut health expert has busted the biggest myths surrounding gut health - and revealed the three simple things everyone can do to improve their general digestive system.
Forbes › Finance › 3 weeks ago
"I’ve heard a few myths surrounding the RIA Channel and the concept of a quarterly conference call." Gui Costin of Dakota Funds dispells some common misconceptions surrounding fundraising.
Business Insider › Finance › 2 months ago
Money myths are ideas that people believe to be true about how to manage their money. Believing myths — like you don't need a budget or that a home can make you money — can keep you from reaching your financial goals. To really make the most of...
New York Post › Opinions › 1 month ago
Elizabeth Warren proudly opposes school choice — for your kids. She apparently could afford to take her own son out of the public-school system and enroll him in a private school, yet her education policies would deny that choice to less wealthy...
Hollywood Life › Lifestyle › 4 days ago
The Miss USA contestants are always so glam at the Miss Universe pageant. The past Miss USA winners have shown up to Miss Universe dressed to impress in the most beautiful gowns.
Business Insider › Lifestyle › 4 days ago
Miss USA Cheslie Kryst wore an ensemble inspired by the Statue of Liberty during the Miss Universe National Costume Show. Her outfit looked strikingly similar to the dress Sandra Bullock wore in the film "Miss Congeniality," in which she plays an...
The Sun › 1 month ago
AMAZON has been accused of spreading anti-vaccine myths by producing a kids’ book suggesting the MMR jab is dangerous. The £10 bedtime story Sarah Doesn’t Want To Be Vaccinated tells of a young girl whose parents refuse to let her have her...
USA Today › Traveling › 1 month ago
Are cruises safe? Will there be kids everywhere? Will everyone be drunk? Cruise Critic dispels 15 myths that keep many people from getting onboard.
Sign In

Sign in to follow sources and tags you love, and get personalized stories.

Continue with Google