Virginia Walden Ford is a visiting fellow in domestic policy studies at The Heritage Foundation, where she specializes in school choice and education reform.
An independent consultant on family, marriage and education matters, Walden Ford also serves as executive director of D.C. Parents for School Choice Inc., which she founded in 1998. The clearinghouse organization seeks to empower parents in the nation’s capital who wish to make informed decisions on educational choices for their children.
In 2003, tireless efforts by Walden Ford and other parent activists resulted in approval by Congress of the D.C. Opportunities Scholarship Program, which provided a way out of the city’s failing public schools to hundreds of children from low-income families. Cash awards offset tuition when parents enroll selected children in private, parochial or charter schools.
The successful scholarship program continues to come under attack by liberal lawmakers and leaders of government education unions, who succeeded in convincing the Obama administration to pull the plug on new scholarships. Speaker John Boehner, however, made restoration of the program his personal priority after assuming leadership of the House in January 2011.
Walden Ford also is a national board member of the Black Alliance for Educational Options Inc., president of its D.C. chapter and a board member of the Booker T. Washington Public Charter School.
She is a native of Little Rock, Ark., where her father was a principal who became the school district’s first black assistant superintendent. Her mother was among the first black teachers at an all-white elementary school.
Little Rock, of course, was home to the Little Rock Nine -- the first black students to integrate Central High School in 1957. Virginia and her twin sister were among about 130 students who were handpicked to desegregate the city's high schools on a larger scale in the mid-1960s.
Walden Ford is the author of the 2005 book “Voices, Choices and Second Chances: How to Win the Battle to Bring Opportunity Scholarships to Your State.”
She is the recipient of Heritage's 2004 Salvatori Prize for American Citizenship; BAEO's 2004 Vision Award; and the National Catholic Education Association’s 2005 Leonard F. DeFiore Parental Choice Advocate Award.