In 1998, the Private Education Tax Credit was passed in Arizona, which revolutionized private education at the time. At the onset of this legislation, Catholic Education Arizona (CEA), previously known as Catholic Tuition Organization for the Diocese of Phoenix (CTODP), was created, a school tuition organization that turns tax credit contributions into scholarships for students. Spearheading this budding organization was a small but dedicated team of three people, including MaryBeth Mueller.
MaryBeth Mueller served as Superintendent of Schools for the Diocese of Phoenix for 25 years. After graduating from college in 1973, she spent years in Catholic education, serving as a Teacher, Assistant Principal, Principal, Assistant Superintendent, and finally, a Superintendent. She also worked in the Diocese of Phoenix and was ringside for the development of CTODP and remained on the Board of Directors until her retirement in 2017.
The History of CTODP/CEA
When the Private Education Tax Credit legislation was passed in 1998, MaryBeth says the creation of CTODP was gradual, and the team had some convincing work to do. There were many concerns and misconceptions to dispel with both the schools and the donors. Thankfully, this small team of three was able to accomplish much. That first year, they raised $1.98 million and hired an Executive Director, making people less leery of the corporate tax credit. CTODP was able to move forward, grow, and solicit more monies, convincing people that it really was a tax credit and educating individuals and corporations as to what that meant.
Along the way, there were a few big wins that were game changers for CTODP in the early years. The first was when tax credits were first allowed to be used for scholarships. MaryBeth mentions, “It increased the diversity and allowed families from all incomes to be able to send their children to Catholic school. Our Catholic schools are not just for those who can pay for it, it’s for anyone who wants a Catholic education”. Another big win was from the general fund, because “it allowed some of our poor schools who didn’t have the same donor base or the parent base to have more equitable funding for their students, and I see that as just a huge win”, MaryBeth recalls.
Even though there have been many changes over the years, one thing that Colleen and MaryBeth agree has remained the same is the mission of Catholic Education Arizona over the past 24 years. The team at CEA is grateful for MaryBeth Mueller being on the ground floor for so many years and making something happen that is now looked at by the rest of the country as the gold standard for a tax credit program. She had a huge part in that and left an incredible legacy that is still growing today. In closing, MaryBeth expresses her gratitude to the countless volunteers who have served on the Board, in parishes, and in schools, and to those who continue to spread the message of the work that Catholic Education Arizona is doing.