It started on the evening of April 20th with a notice on Facebook when a group called “DSCS Funding Fight 2016” was created. The group was established to draw attention to the state budget that was being discussed by the legislature specifically regarding funding for district sponsored charter schools. Certain members of the legislature wanted to eliminate district sponsored charters and only have privately owned charter schools in Arizona. But the Vail School District has two district sponsored charter schools, and if their funding were to be eliminated, the consequences would have been disastrous for Vail. This fight was a righteous cause!

At 9:43 that evening, just four hours after the group had started, it had recruited 92 active members, ready to go to work. Six minutes later, it was reported that all the phone lines being called were busy – a sign that people were already hard at work. By this time, other parents were chiming in, offering observations and tips on how to address mass emails effectively.

By 2:48 a.m., on the morning of the 21st, the number had grown to 273 active participants! And by 7:04 a.m., the Vail Parent Network (VPN) was exhorting the group to post information on their personal Facebook pages and spread the word to people outside the group. At 9:02 a.m., on the 21st, it was reported that Senate Majority Leader Andy Biggs was refusing calls and not responding to emails anymore. And by 11:34 a.m., friendly legislators were emailing and texting encouragement to the group, giving indicators of the group’s effectiveness.

Several members of the steering committee were already at the capital meeting with legislators when the group learned that the Benson Parent Network and Cave Creek had now joined in the effort – magnifying the numbers. By 4 p.m. on the 21st, less than 24 hours after the group started, it had 341 active participants and had sent over 4,500 emails. Furthermore, word from Phoenix was that the legislators were dumbfounded and unable to push the budget through.

And thus began day 2.

By this time, it was obvious that the Democratic legislators were firmly in support of our cause, and that the House was largely in support as well, so VPN advised all to focus on the Republican Senators.

Over the weekend, the group strategized, rested, and got more intelligence from those in the know in Phoenix. On Monday the 25th, the process began again with a renewed vengeance! Even though the Republicans had moved the negotiations behind closed doors, VPN parents kept at it, calling their assistants and anybody else who would listen to keep the pressure moving. The VPN Steering Committee was back at the Capital working the halls, meeting with anyone who would see them.

This continued all week with someone at the Capitol every day, ensuring that the legislature knew they were being watched. By Friday the 29th, the Vail Parent Network had pushed the legislature to the frazzled edge. Things were not going well for legislators who wanted to kill District Sponsored Charter Schools, and there were many Legislators who were changing their stance. As the weekend approached, VPN was exhausted, but continued forward to the last, long push.

Over the weekend, T-shirts were made with sayings like, “I am a Republican Mom, and I support Public Education.” Most of these parents were indeed Republicans. But this issue was not about Party, it was about Vail’s kids and teachers doing the right thing for Vail’s schools and the state of Arizona. The Vail Parent Network’s efforts paid off. The funding was restored.

What next? Well, with over 400 active participants (and still growing!), VPN will turn its attention to getting the right people elected into office and making certain sure the wrong ones aren’t!

The Vail Parent Network has done what so many people said was impossible. They motivated a group of citizens to move, to become engaged, and to participate in their government. Arizona is a better state for it! (This story was condensed from an account related by Mike Holmes.)

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