One Private School Scholarship Leads to Lifetime of Fighting for School Choice

An academic scholarship to a private high school was my doorway to school choice in a state without any other school choice options. Without the scholarship, my folks would not have been able to pay the tuition. It was a great school, and I loved my high school years. What a sad day it was when the high school that had put me on the road to academic success in college closed, no longer financially able to keep the doors open.

During my four years there, my classmates and I did our best to keep the wolves away from the door by every kind of fundraiser you can imagine. We held bake sales, car washes, raffles, an annual carnival, but, eventually, there weren’t enough brownies, tickets, water hoses or dunk tanks to keep the lights on.  The once bustling halls of Marycrest High School in Denver, Colorado went silent for good.

Fast forward ten years and Sydney Hay, the teacher, landed in Arizona to embark on a teaching career in a private high school like the one that had been so important in my youth.  But, the school struggled. As did the families. We teachers accepted half the level of pay of the public schools. It was our vocation. Those teaching years became another valuable lesson that convinced me Arizona could do what Colorado never did. And my life changed.

I left teaching and took on the cause of getting school choice in Arizona. That was the mid-1980’s and since that time, I have loved every minute of advancing educational opportunity for kids in the Grand Canyon State.  We started with open enrollment, then we created one of the best charter school landscapes in the country.  In 1997, scholarship tax credits were invented here and they continue to grow.  In 2011, ESAs were launched in Arizona. I sometimes miss the classroom, but the school choice opportunities we have successfully created have impacted tens of thousands more children than just one dedicated educator could have.  What’s next?  We will not rest until every single one of our 1.1 million school children has every possible opportunity to see their dreams come true through the education that is right for them. We won’t stop until every child, like the ones in this video, can say, “thank you, Arizona, for school choice.