Lisa Graham Keegan recognized for pioneer spirit in education

The Center for Education Reform (CER) recognized former Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Lisa Graham Keegan for her unwavering commitment to providing students with access to high-quality education at its 25th anniversary last week.

CER honored Keegan, Chief Executive of the Arizona Chamber Foundation and co-founder of A for Arizona, with its Pioneer Award, which recognizes those “who forged new territory, who cut through the most incredible obstacles to build our nation. Lisa was that person for the southwest,” said Jeanne Allen, founder and CEO of CER, a national nonprofit that works to bridge the gap between policy and practice so students have access to quality schools that will open doors for their future endeavors.  

Allen said Keegan’s drive, cheerful disposition and commitment to creating opportunities for students emulates a pioneer spirit.

Armando Ruiz, founder of Espiritu Schools and former state legislator, said Keegan has “always been a step ahead of where education needs to be, where it needs to go. There are certain kinds of people that can predict where the issues are going to go. They can analyze it and see where it should go. That’s the unique ability that she’s had all these years.”

Ruiz and Keegan worked together when they served in the Arizona House of Representatives in the early nineties.

“She is this loving person. We have not always agreed, but she’s a person that respects you when you have a different opinion,” Ruiz said. “She’s passionate about the educational positions that are for the benefit of kids. She’s one of my favorite people in the world. She’s wonderful.”

For the last 25 years, Keegan has worked to increase access to quality public schools.  During her time in the House of Representatives, she sponsored Arizona’s landmark free open enrollment and public charter school laws.

As Superintendent of Public Instruction, Keegan led efforts to revise the state’s school finance formulas to reflect a commitment to equal access and choice of excellent schools. She co-founded A for Arizona and continues to be a driving force in ensuring all students have access to a great classroom, especially those in low-income communities.

“Lisa’s relentless belief in Arizona students is unmatched,” said A for Arizona executive director Emily Anne Gullickson. “Working across the aisle, Lisa transformed public education in Arizona from a place where wealth provided the only pathway to a quality education into a state with the largest academic gains in the country.”

Allen, whose group honored Keegan and other education leaders from across the country on October 26, said the path to success is when communities work together to put students first.

“I think the people in Arizona, particularly the business community, should be recognized and applauded for their stick-to-itiveness in ensuring these reforms were created and that innovation and teaching and learning from pre-K all the way through college and beyond continue,” Allen said. “We are both celebrating as well as really using this as a milestone to make the case to all of our colleagues that we must be dramatically more ambitious and purposeful in the changes that we execute for students.”

The other honorees include:

Tommy Thompson: Senior Fellow of Bipartisan Policy Center; Former Governor of Wisconsin

Fernando Zulueta: President of ACADEMICA

Willard Fair: President & CEO of Urban League of Greater Miami

Jonathan Hage: CEO of Charter Schools USA

J.C. Huizenga: Founder of National Heritage Academies

Brian Jones: President of Strayer Education

Joe Nathan: Director of Center for School Change

Deborah Quazzo: Co-Founder & Managing Partner of GSV

Sierra Ciaramella

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