1. News
  2. /
  3. Gradebook

Educational Choice group will screen a movie next week about the fight for school vouchers

“Miss Virginia” will be playing at the Tampa Theater on Tuesday.
"Miss Virginia," a film about school choice, will be screened at the Tampa Theatre on Dec. 10.
"Miss Virginia," a film about school choice, will be screened at the Tampa Theatre on Dec. 10.
Published Dec. 3

TAMPA — An organization committed to school choice is screening a movie in Tampa that honors a Washington, D.C. parent who fought for a historic, federally funded school voucher program.

“Miss Virginia,” staring Uzo Abuda of “Orange is the New Black” in the role of Virginia Walden Ford, will be shown 7 p.m. on Dec. 10 at the Tampa Theatre, 711 Franklin St.

Admission is free, with tickets available at this link. Walden Ford will be available for questions after the movie.

The event is promoted by Step Up For Students, a Clearwater-based organization that oversees several voucher and scholarship programs for the state of Florida.

The film explores Walden Ford’s struggle to raise and educate her teenage son in a low-income neighborhood in the nation’s capital.

Describing the experience in a blog entry in 2018, Walden Ford wrote: “I saw my son choosing to run with the kids who were getting in trouble and when I asked him why, he told me that he felt safer being a part of the thug world. He said that smart kids got beat up. William began skipping school and getting into all kinds of trouble in school with teachers and administration. He truly believe that if he acted ‘bad,’ he would be safe. He seldom did homework because he felt like it didn’t matter to anyone whether he passed or failed."

A neighbor helped Walden Ford pay tuition to put her son in a private school, she said, and she got a second job “with gratitude” to pay the rest of the cost.

The experience led her to advocate, through a grassroots organization, for other families who needed alternatives.

As with many things that touch on school choice, “Miss Virginia” has been met with divided opinions.

The production company, Moving Pictures Institute, received funding from the conservative Mercer Family Foundation, and “Miss Virginia” enjoyed very little screen time in commercial theaters.

Walden Ford, in an interview with the Washington Post, insisted the project was not political; and that during her struggle, “the only policy we thought about is how we can get better options for our kids.”

Nevertheless, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos took Hollywood to task recently for not promoting the film. “'Miss Virginia’ should be in bright lights on every marquee across America,” DeVos said during a pro-voucher event in Washington, D.C.. “But Hollywood elites let their politics get in the way of advancing the greatest civil rights struggle today.”

This is not the first time the Tampa theater has aired a film with a strong message about school choice.

A little more than a year ago, a largely anti-charter crowd turned out to see “Backpack Full of Cash,” a documentary that was narrated by Matt Damon, with the central theme that charter schools strip district-run schools of the funding they need to operate successfully.


  1. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis raises his hands after being asked about his relationship with two Ukrainian businessmen during an announcement at a Palm Harbor Walmart Monday, Nov. 4, 2019. DeSantis refused to answer questions about the two men. [CHRIS URSO  |  Times]
    During a news conference in Naples, DeSantis launched into a long-winded discussion of American history, which he said young people need to know better.
  2. Jarrod Haneline, shown when he was named principal of Jackson Elementary School in 2018, has left that position. [MARLENE SOKOL  |  Times staff]
    Jarrod Haneline left the position in recent weeks.
  3. 4 hours ago• Gradebook
    Alan Black, outgoing principal of Burney Elementary School, in an image on the school website. [HSPS  |  Handout]
    School leaders will trade jobs in the new year.
  4. Pasco School District headquarters in Land O' Lakes
    The sides have not set a new date for negotiations.
  5. Tony Pirotta, right, meets with his Armwood High Ought to be a Law student club and state Rep. Susan Valdes to talk strategy for the group's latest legislative proposal. They presented their bill to state senators on Dec. 9. [JEFFREY SOLOCHEK  |  Times Staff Writer]
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  6. Florida's Baker Act was written in 1971 by Maxine Baker, a 65-year-old grandmother and a freshman Florida legislator from Miami-Dade County, seen here in a 1965 photo. [Associated Press]
    The law was written in 1971 by Maxine Baker, a legislator from Miami-Dade County who pushed for the rights of people with mental illness.
  7. Sarah Henderson with her son, Braden, who was committed under the Baker Act after a joking remark at school. [JOHN PENDYGRAFT  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    A cop car comes. A child is handcuffed and taken to a mental health facility. The scene is all too frequent at public schools across the state.
  8. Three Armwood High School students testify before the Senate Education Committee on Dec. 9, 2019. Left to right are seniors Maria Medina, Haley Manigold and Madison Harvey. [Emily L. Mahoney | Times]
    “The people who are cynics about politics are also the ones who complain the most,” said one student, who said democracy requires participation.
  9. Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island.
    The idea is part of Florida leaders’ pitch to address low teacher pay, though there is still disagreement over how to do so.
  10. The government program provides free lunches in schools that qualify, regardless of a student's family income. The idea is to erase a stigma.
    One manager lost her job, accused of taking advantage of the program she oversaw.