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#AskExcelinEd: What am I thankful for?

• Patricia Levesque


Gratitude is at the heart of our nation’s Thanksgiving Day celebration this weekEach and every dayIgrateful for the blessings in my life and the joy of family and friends. 

My gratitude extends to you and the work you are doing to improve the lives of families by transforming the quality of education for their children. From policymakers to education leaders to advocates, you are working on policy solutions that will have lasting impacts across our nation.  

Your efforts range from strengthening early literacy and expanding access to schools and programs to creating innovations in learning and 21st-century career pathways. I’m so grateful for this progress. Thank you! 

Last week at ExcelinEd’s 2019 National Summit on Education Reform, we had the opportunity to hear from parents themselves who bravely stood up for their child’s education – and are now sharing their experiences to help other families. They were successful in opening the door to educational opportunity and, in doing so, changed the lives of countless students. I am so grateful to them for sharing their stories. 

Tracy Richardson-James is the mother of one of the first student beneficiaries in the nation’s first statewide voucher program signed into law in 1999 by Florida Governor Jeb Bush. Tracy’s daughter attended the Montessori School of Pensacola on the state voucher program which thrust them both to the front-lines of a very controversial issue. Through her fight, Tracy was empowered to choose where her daughter received an education. 

Across the country in Arizona, Veronica Ragland and her daughter, Salima, who has Down syndrome, are able to customize her education by arranging therapies and affording private education thanks to an Education Scholarship Account. Veronica recently founded Salima’s Purpose, a nonprofit dedicated to connecting families of students with unique abilities to service providers and resources so families can redirect the time they spend looking for available service providers into time with their family. 

One non-negotiable is a school that teams with me regarding my child’s learning. – Veronica Ragland 

In Nevada, Bonnie Ybarra fought tirelessly to prevent the only private choice program from being eradicated. She is a mother of five daughters, three of whom are school age and attending a private school due to extreme situations with safety and failing at their assigned public schools. Bonnie shared how she had been passed along grade after grade through school, despite only earning failing grades. She told the audience that she fights for her kids and other students because she wished someone would have been fighting for her when she was young. 

Keri Rodrigues is the founding president and Mom-in-Chief of Massachusetts Parents United. After personally struggling with the educational system of her own children, Keri shifted gears and began focusing on educational reforms to help parents find their voice at the policy-making table so they can improve the lives of their families.  

“Talent is equitably distributed. Opportunity is not.” – Keri Rodrigues

I strongly believe that policy has the power to change lives. Hearing from parent advocates like Tracy, Veronica, Keri and Bonnie gives me hope for the future. Together we are making a difference in education systems across the nation. I thank you, and I challenge you to never give up until each and every child gets the quality education they deserve.  

About the author

Patricia Levesque @levesquepat

Patricia is the Chief Executive Officer for the Foundation for Excellence in Education. She served as Governor Jeb Bush’s deputy chief of staff for education, enterprise solutions for government, minority procurement, and business and professional regulation. Previously, Patricia served six years in the Florida Legislature in the Speakers Office and as staff director over education policy. Contact Patricia at