Founder of Parent Revolution, Shirley Ford passed away this week after battling cancer. She leaves behind a legacy of parent and education advocacy in Los Angeles, but her impact is felt across California. She was instrumental in passing "parent trigger" legislation and fought to bring quality school options to underserved communities. Her work led to the passage of a bill that gave parents the power to force change at failing schools.
Ford believed that a student's zip code should not limit their access to quality education. Searching for good schools for her two boys, she began the fight for educational justice for all parents. She garnered the support she needed to be the co-founder of Parent Revolution after she enrolled her boys at Animo Inglewood High School, within in the Green Dot Public Schools Network.
Ford said, "Like so many young African-American boys, they were quickly labeled with learning disabilities when they started committing normal, minor infractions in class. At a young age, they started to become disengaged and apathetic towards school. I quickly started to become desperate. I knew that my sons needed a great education if they were going to be successful, and I realized it was my job to make that happen -- nobody else was going to do it for me."
Though she started early, she was not able to find the best options for her boys until high school when she noticed a flyer one day on her doorstep.
"I tried everything I could to get them into a better public school. When that didn't work, I applied for financial aid at a local private school but was denied," she wrote. Her boys were falling further behind by middle school and the only option afforded to her by her zip code was Inglewood High School, where 1 in 10 students was at grade level. When a flyer for a charter school showed up on her doorstep, she decided to give it a try. "I had no idea what a charter school was, but I was out of good options, so I decided to get check out their upcoming meeting."
This meeting secured a quality school for her boys and launched her career as a parent advocate. After founding Parent Revolution, she served as director of community partnerships. The role of Parent Revolution was vital in underserved communities. As it launched its Choice4LA campaign, Parent Revolution trained parents and equipped them with resources and knowledge that allowed them to navigate the school choice process by understanding their options, application processes and how to evaluate school quality.
Recently, due in part to her efforts, 20th Street Elementary School boasted the highest gains in math scores compared to any traditional school in LAUSD.
Her oldest son, Robert, graduated from Animo Inglewood, then college and became a teacher.
"Shirley is survived by thousands of children who will never know her name but whose lives will forever be transformed because of her courage, passion, and love."
-Ben Austin, Co-founder, Parent Revolution