What do I do when my child’s school is failing?
What would you do if your child was trapped in a failing school, and you weren't able to send him or her to a private school?
That's the situation Virginia Walden Ford faced when she couldn't financially afford to remove her son from a dangerous and poorly performing school in the heart of our nation's capital. But just when she was about to give up hope, a donated scholarship rescued her son, who thrived in private school, and eventually became a U.S. Marine. Now Ford has dedicated her life to making sure other parents and children have the same choice — today, she serves as the executive director for the D.C. Parents for School Choice.
First, find out what school choice options are available for families in your state. You may be surprised by the choices you already have. Or, your state may be working to pass opportunity scholarship legislation. For information on your state, visit The Heritage Foundation's School Choice in America webpage.
Second, based on your state's options (or lack thereof), communicate with your state elected officials about the need to expand school choice for families. You can easily contact your state legislators and request they support opportunity scholarship programs by using our online Action Center, and entering your ZIP code at the bottom of the page.
It's especially important for legislators to hear from men and women like you – parents concerned about their children – because it's much more common for our Members of Congress to send their children to private school than it is for the general population. In fact, according to an annual survey of Congress conducted by the Heritage Foundation, approximately 44 percent of senators and 36 percent of representatives with school-age children have at some point sent their kids to private school. Only about 11 percent of American students attend private school.
You can also help make the case by writing letters to the editor and calling talk shows. Some important points to share with your legislators or in your letter to the editor include:
Currently, if an upper-class family is dissatisfied with their local public schools, they have the resources to send their children where they wish. An underprivileged family, however, has no such alternative. School choice levels the playing field by making the best schools available to the families who need them most.
Ronald Holassie, a D.C.-area student, has lived on both sides of the school choice debate. He attended public schools where fighting was often more common than learning. By the sixth grade, Ronald was failing most of his classes. He has a natural gift for composing music, but was so far behind in reading that he struggled to write lyrics.
Ronald’s mom, Carmen, didn’t see a way out: She was a single mom without a high school degree, making ends meet with housekeeping and babysitting jobs. One day, she spotted a bus ad for an opportunity scholarship. That enabled her to send Ronald to a Catholic high school, Archbishop Carroll.
“The teachers actually cared and wanted you to do your work,” Ronald told Focus on the Family Citizen magazine. He graduated in June 2011 and has started recording his own music.
“I never thought I would be doing what I’m doing now. Some people kind of doubted me, that I could make it to this point,” he said. “But I really proved them wrong.” Since then, Ronald has testified at U.S. congressional hearings in favor of giving parents and kids more school choice.
Citizen magazine article:
Focus on the Family school choice Web resources:
Heritage Foundation resources:
Alliance for School Choice: