By Andrea Weck-Robertson
When I heard that the U.S. Supreme Court was going to decide a legal challenge to Arizona’s Individual Scholarship Tax Credit Program, I was immediately concerned because my daughter, Lexie, relies on a tax-credit-funded scholarship to attend a private school. I was relieved, however, when I learned that IJ is defending the program. I have every confidence that IJ will prevail when the Supreme Court hears oral arguments in that case, Garriott v. Winn, on November 3.
I am confident because IJ represented Lexie and me during our three-year battle against the teachers’ unions and the ACLU of Arizona to defend my right to choose the school that best meets Lexie’s needs as a child with disabilities. (Lexie was born with cerebral palsy, autism and mild mental retardation.) In 2006, the Arizona Legislature enacted a publicly funded scholarship program for children with special needs. The program was immediately challenged in state court—and IJ intervened in the case on our behalf. To our dismay, the Arizona Supreme Court ultimately declared the program unconstitutional.
But IJ and I refused to give up.
Together with a broad coalition of school choice supporters, we went to the Legislature and pushed for a new scholarship program. The result was “Lexie’s Law”—a scholarship tax credit program that allows corporations to donate money to School Tuition Organizations, which are nonprofit groups that fund private school scholarships. Soon thereafter, Lexie was awarded a scholarship from the Arizona School Choice Trust, one of Arizona’s most prominent School Tuition Organizations. (To watch a brief video about my story, visit www.ij.org/freedomflix/weck.)
Lexie’s transformation from a little girl who barely interacted with her family into a young woman who not only loves to play with her sisters, but who has become a peace-maker in the midst of conflict, is remarkable. She continues to amaze us all. For those who may recall my story, you know that I was a single mom. But I recently married a wonderful man. Thanks to the structure and consistency Lexie receives at her private school, she was able to walk down the aisle at our wedding, sit through the ceremony and even dance at our reception.
With all her challenges, Lexie should be my most difficult child, but she is my easiest. She has learned to adjust to new settings with confidence. She is nonverbal, but her sign language skills and comprehension grow daily. She has learned to string signs together to ask questions, and her listening comprehension is off the charts. As a result, she is a leader in her classroom because she so willingly responds to the instructions given by her teachers and aides. Thanks to the personalized instruction she gets through the school choice program, she has found her voice without using it.
I hope that success stories like this will spur the government schools to remodel their own special education programs—which I have investigated at length and found to be utterly lacking the love and attention Lexie and her classmates receive from her private school teachers.
School choice is changing lives. The individuals and businesses who generously donate to charities like the Arizona School Choice Trust are changing lives. And, of course, IJ is changing lives through its tireless efforts to represent parents like me and children like Lexie who have been empowered to choose the school best-suited for our family.
Andrea Weck-Robertson is an IJ client and school choice mom from Arizona.