America Loses a Reform Titan

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

J. Patrick Rooney passed away recently, leaving behind a remarkable legacy.

The Los Angeles Times once described Rooney as “a wealthy man and politically eccentric conservative who also had championed civil rights throughout his life.” An Indianapolis insurance executive, Rooney fought racial discrimination in the insurance market and launched the nation’s first privately financed school voucher program.

Rooney told the Wall Street Journal “When all families, no matter how poor, have the freedom to walk away from bad schools, competition will force the public schools to improve.”

Rooney’s privately funded programs were the precursor to the creation of scholarship tax credits, originating in Arizona. Jack and Isabel McVaugh created the Arizona School Choice Trust, inspired by Rooney’s philanthropy. In 1997, the Arizona legislature created the nation’s first scholarship tax credit program in order to augment these efforts.

Today, there are seven scholarship tax credit programs in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island helping thousands of parents to choose the best school for their child.

Rooney’s impact stretches beyond these impressive education achievements. He is also known as “the Father of Medical Savings Accounts,” the precursor to today’s Health Savings Accounts. HSAs represent the most effective heath reform option on the table today, as they uniquely address the underlying problem of out of control costs.

Rooney left the world a better place than he found it, and it falls to us to see that his great legacy of progress continues to grow.

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