Today’s SCOTUS decision and the blessings of school choice

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I am a pastor and father living in South Phoenix.

My wife, Rhonda, and I have always had a strong desire to provide all of our children with high-quality education, but working at the church does not generate the income to match our desire.

Unfortunately, the local public schools have never been an option because of the inadequate education they offer. The school district we live in is considered one of the worst in the state. They are measurably deficient when compared to the private schools.

With the help of Arizona’s Scholarship Tax Credit program, my wife and I, along with thousands of other parents, are able to take control of our children’s education.

When our oldest daughter, Micah, was ready to go to school, Rhonda and I could not afford private tuition and had to enroll her in a public school across town. The drive was long, but it was worth it to save her from the failing local schools. Yet we were still not satisfied with the education she was receiving.

The public school bureaucracy prevents teachers from focusing on the individual needs of children. As a result, the system creates an assembly line mentality: Kids get pumped through, losing their individuality and hope for a better future.

We realized that our children needed to attend private school. Thankfully, we received a blessing from heaven: the ability to experience firsthand the joy that comes from being a part of the power of choice.

The Arizona tax credit program offers scholarships to parents like Rhonda and me who would otherwise not be able to afford to send our kids to successful schools. Thanks to the program, 19,000 children are attending the schools of their choice, with many more on waiting lists.

For over 12 years now, Rhonda and I have joined thousands of other parents throughout Arizona in having the freedom to choose the schools that best meet our children’s needs. For me, the power of choice is fundamentally American.

With the scholarships, our children are part of a curriculum that is far superior to the public schools. Now they receive individualized attention and college prep. All five are being educated in academics as well as music and athletics.

Opponents’ continued assault is truly upsetting. After more than a decade, and multiple court rulings in our favor, they’re still trying to take these scholarships away from my family and force our children into failing schools.

Today, the Supreme Court of the United States will decide if they hear this case next term. This is the second frivolous lawsuit against the Arizona Scholarship Tax Credit, and I am confident opponents of school choice will fail once again.

Why would anyone be against anything that successfully gives more opportunity to thousands of low-income children throughout Arizona?

My family would be devastated if we could not exercise our freedom to choose our schools. Rhonda and I cannot stick our children in the failing public education bureaucracy. If our children are forced out of their schools we will have to move, possibly leaving our rich and beautiful neighborhood and the church I pastor.

If the special interests were to succeed in destroying the scholarships, how many of the 19,000 Arizona kids now enrolled would have their futures put in jeopardy by being forced into a failing system?

These scholarships are positive not just for our inner city families, but for our society as a whole. When low-income children are given a chance at a better academic situation, it drastically increases their likelihood of living a healthy and productive life.

Forever I will be indebted to the scholarship program and the Institute for Justice for representing parents like me and continuing to defend our freedom to choose.

I pray that this blessing will not end.

Pastor Dennard is a parent defending Arizona’s scholarship tax credits in Hibbs v. Winn; a case the Supreme Court is deciding today to hear during the next term.

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