Former lawmakers join NC school choice group's board

Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina, a state school choice group, has announced two new members to the organization’s board of directors. Joel Ford represented Mecklenburg County as a Democrat for three terms in the North Carolina Senate and Marilyn Avila represented Wake County as a Republican 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,” PEFNC Board Chair Rick Adams said in a statement. “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.”

Ford previously served 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. 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," Ford said in a statement. "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."

Avila 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, she co-sponsored legislation creating the Children with Disabilities Scholarship Grant in 2013 and voted to lift the cap on charter schools and create the Opportunity Scholarship Program. She also worked on foster care and adoption issues in North Carolina.

“The issue of parental empowerment in education isn’t a Republican or Democrat issue," Avila said in a statement. "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."