How I spent my summer vacation By: Connor Owen

“Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.” — Kofi Annan

I have honestly lost count of the number of times people have asked me why I sacrificed my summer for Save Our Schools Arizona. Surely it makes sense that a recent high school graduate would help to ensure that his alma mater is properly funded. It may surprise you to learn that I graduated from a local Catholic high school. In fact, I attended a public elementary school, a charter middle school, and a private high school. My family made many sacrifices to help send me to a private school. However, never did I believe that the taxpayers of Arizona should foot the bill for my Catholic education.

Despite my family’s experience, or maybe because of it, I believe that a strong public education system is crucial to Arizona. Not only do our public schools shape the leaders of tomorrow, they allow for an equal opportunity. The American ideal that with hard work anything can be achieved inspired me to support SOS and public education. Without a strong and properly funded public education system, we surrender the basis for the American Dream. Supporting public education means more than protecting tax dollars designated for public schools. Our fight is about protecting the foundation of our democracy.

I found out about SOS through Twitter. After researching the battle over ESAs, I decided to circulate a petition. Public education is so important to me that I was willing to bear the blistering heat and humble myself to knock on doors and ask strangers to join me in this fight. I think it’s safe to say that I got caught up in the excitement of the campaign, because I ended up putting in countless hours throughout the summer as an intern. This upcoming fall, I will be attending Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington. I am currently undecided in terms of a major, but this campaign has inspired me to stand up for what I believe in and never throw in the towel because the political odds are stacked against me. I’m honored to be contributing to this blog of experiences from some of our 2,000 amazing volunteers, not only to keep everyone informed, but to also shed light on the verification process and the ongoing battle to protect our public education system.

On Tuesday, with all media and public attention focused on the press conference, we were met by a large group of lawyers, volunteers, and staffers from the DeVos-backed American Federation for Children (AFC) as we delivered the petitions to the Secretary of State. What was meant to be a process of simply observing the temporary employees of the Secretary of State turned into an aggressive attack on the voters who entrusted their information to us. The intensity and strategy of the AFC over the past few days proves the lengths to which they will go to prevent the people of Arizona from having a voice.

However, we took them by surprise. They said a group of volunteers could never manage that many signatures. We showed them that our passion could overcome any amount of money they wanted to throw at us. By trying to halt our referendum and corrupt our constitutional voting rights, Betsy DeVos’s AFC is implying that out-of-state pursuit of profit and power is greater than the intent of 111,540 Arizona voters. Let’s prove them wrong.

I ask you to stay involved. Social media is our friend. We can hold them accountable. Be sure to follow Save Our Schools Arizona on Facebook and Twitter, and donate if possible. The power of the people will always prevail over the power of money.