From an audacious idea to reality

It only took 120 seconds.

Four years ago, I was on stage at a shark tank-style competition in Boise, Idaho alongside my friend and nationally renowned education reformer Lisa Graham Keegan. Together we were pitching some of the most influential philanthropic foundations in the country on an audacious idea: fund what works.

Instead of focusing on failure, we argued that we should invest and support our best school leaders, especially those serving low-income communities.

Well, our pitch worked, and the Helmsley Charitable Trust helped to launch A for Arizona, an initiative within our Arizona Chamber Foundation and in partnership with our good friends at the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

From that first infusion of seed funding, A for Arizona has grown into a powerhouse that has helped spark ideas into action, allowing Arizona’s best district, magnet and charter schools to grow.

Over that same time, Arizona has seen some of the highest achievement gains in the country.

But as steady as the improvement is, it isn’t fast enough. The Chamber and our A for Arizona partners work collaboratively every day to try and clear a path for Arizona’s best leaders, and we’ve taken the next step to accelerate that work.

A for Arizona has just launched a public-school Expansion Fund to accelerate the growth of Arizona’s best schools – district, magnet or charter – especially those serving low-income communities. Public schools across our state are committed to serving more and more kids in their communities. With a little bit of help from A for Arizona’s Expansion Fund, they could move even faster.

This time our seed funding is homegrown.

The Bob and Renee Parsons Foundation has committed $250,000 to support the creation of the Fund. And, most importantly, they have created a $1 million match that will go directly to public schools expanding across Arizona. The Burton Family Foundation has already taken them up on that offer, committing $100,000 to the Expansion Fund, which will be matched one-to-one by the Bob and Renee Parsons Foundation.

This fund will give thousands more students access to ‘A’-rated schools starting next year.

Find out more information about how to get involved financially here. School grant applications open on Oct. 1.

It only took 120 seconds to spark a new idea. We are now doubling down on that idea and investing directly into what’s working for Arizona students.

Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Glenn Hamer

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