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Miss Virginia

"Miss Virginia" Continued...

Issue: "Tour d'America road rage," Feb. 11, 2012

When some members of Congress tried to revive the program in 2010, Latasha Bennett, the single African-American mom of a voucher student, testified before congressional committees and "felt the empowerment inside of me as if it was the civil-rights movement. ... Had we not spoke up, this thing would have been washed under the bridge like a lot of things." But the effort seemed in vain: Only two Senate Democrats voted for the program, and the bill failed.

Then voters in November 2010 gave Republicans a House majority. New Speaker John Boehner insisted on the program's revival in the final spending deal that he worked out with Obama last spring. "God gave us a miracle," Walden Ford said several months later, as she sat at a table stacked with framed pictures of kids who received vouchers. A picture of Boehner and some of the voucher families is the background on her laptop's screen, and tears come to her eyes as she thinks of her parents' struggle years ago, and hers: "I don't think I had enough respect for what my parents went through, until I went through this."

Now Walden Ford is in Arkansas, after giving away much of her furniture to Washington voucher families, but the kids who call her "Grandma," and their parents, have not forgotten her: Kelley plans to drive his kids down to visit Grandma Virginia in Arkansas next summer. Nor has Walden Ford forgotten what she learned: Her new goal is to bring vouchers to the Arkansas education system.

Emily Belz
Emily Belz

Emily, who has covered everything from political infighting to pet salons for The Indianapolis Star, The Hill, and the New York Daily News, reports for WORLD from New York City. Follow Emily on Twitter @emzleb.

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