PEFNC Welcomes Experienced Public Servants Joel Ford, Marilyn Avila to Board of Directors

Arrival of Ford, Avila reinforces bipartisan school choice coalition

Raleigh (February 28, 2019) – North Carolina’s leading voice for parental choice in education, Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina (PEFNC), is proud to announce two new members to the organization’s Board of Directors: Joel Ford represented Mecklenburg County for three terms in the North Carolina Senate and Marilyn Avila represented Wake County for five terms in the North Carolina House.

“We are honored to welcome Joel and Marilyn, both of whom have a wealth of experience fighting for parental school choice in North Carolina, to the Board,” said PEFNC Board Chair Rick Adams. “It’s refreshing to be reminded that members of both political parties can come together on commonsense issues like parental school choice and work to improve the lives of all North Carolina students, regardless of income or zip code.”

Joel Ford comes to the PEFNC Board of directors after representing his constituents in Mecklenburg County as a Democratic member of the North Carolina Senate for six years. He has dedicated his life to community service, previously serving as Chairman of the Charlotte Housing Authority, Chairman of the Mecklenburg County Democratic Party, and on the Board of Directors of Renaissance West Community Lake Initiative. A native of Charlotte, Joel and his wife Deborah have a daughter, Noelle. Joel is a graduate of North Carolina A&T State University, Leadership North Carolina, and the Institute of Political Leadership. He is currently an executive consultant for a behavioral health company.

“Standing up for parental school choice wasn’t always popular with all of my colleagues, but it was the right thing to do. That’s why I was called to join members of the Legislative Black Caucus to voice our support for school choice, and it’s why I’m excited to partner with PEFNC now that I’m out of office to ensure all families in our state have access to the school that is the best fit for their child,” said Ford.

Marilyn Avila comes to the PEFNC Board with a strong history of public service, having served as a Republican member of the North Carolina House from 2007 to 2017 and as Deputy Majority Leader from 2015 to 2016. She is a former small business owner, finance manager at the John Locke Foundation, and chairwoman of the Wake County Republican Party. In the legislature, Marilyn was a champion of expanding school choice options for all North Carolinians—and especially working-class and minority families and those with children with special needs. She co-sponsored legislation creating the Children with Disabilities Scholarship Grant in 2013, and she voted to lift the cap on charter schools and create the Opportunity Scholarship Program. During her time in the legislature, Marilyn also worked on foster care and adoption issues in North Carolina. She and her husband, Alex, have been married for 46 years and have two grown children. Their son, David, is an attorney in NYC and daughter, Katherine, is the mother of the four smartest, most talented grandsons ever born.

“The issue of parental empowerment in education isn’t a Republican or Democrat issue. It’s about providing families with quality educational options in our state. I believed that during my time in the state legislature, and I’ll continue to work for those ideals as a member of the Board of Directors at PEFNC,” said Avila.

PEFNC’s 2019 Board of Directors is:

  • Rick Adams, Board Chair
  • Rita Haire, Vice Chair
  • John Bryson, Treasurer
  • Joe Young, Secretary
  • Shea Bradford
  • Lesa Howard
  • Joel Ford
  • Marilyn Avila


PEFNC is a statewide organization that supports greater educational options through parental school choice, such as public charter schools and the Opportunity Scholarship Program. Our mission is to inform parents of the benefits of expanded options and empower them to exercise freedom in meeting their children’s needs, regardless of race, national origin, income or religion.