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This month’s focus: Fair Funding

“When families can’t count on their neighborhood public school to be funded equitably, something has gone deeply wrong with Texas.” – Dr. María “Cuca” Robledo Montecel, IDRA President and CEO

Published 10 times a year, each edition explores issues facing U.S. education today and strategies to better serve every student. This newsletter is published in print and on the IDRA website, in addition to this eLetter format.

The Latest Texas School Finance Equity and Adequacy Court Case - Round Six

Texas Taxpayers and Student Fairness Coalition et al vs. Williams

by Albert Cortez, Ph.D.

After closing arguments in the trial last year involving the legal challenge by six groups to the Texas school finance system, the district court ruled from the bench that the current funding system is “inefficient, inequitable and unsuitable…” (2013). Judge Dietz planned to have the written ruling four to six weeks later wherein he would provide more specificity regarding its findings of fact and rulings of law.

At roughly the same time, the 83rd Texas Legislature voted to increase the basic allotment from $4,765 to $4,950 per student and to slightly increase the “golden penny” guaranteed yield from $59.95 per penny of tax effort to $61.86 beginning in 2014-15. Along with a couple of other formulae changes, the adjustments in state aid restored most but not all funding that had been cut from public schools two years earlier. Those cuts triggered the 2012 lawsuit by more than half of the school districts in Texas – representing three-fourths of the students – and even charter school proponents.

At the recommendation of some of the plaintiff groups, the district court agreed to convene new hearings in the case, slating the continuation of proceedings for January 2014. By early January, the updated arguments had been presented by plaintiff groups. – Keep reading

Happy Birthday to You – The Civil Rights Act at Fifty

by Bradley Scott, Ph.D.

It was 50 years ago that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed and was enacted on July 2, 1964, as the law of the land. A college professor told me once: “We already have civil rights. The law was passed a long time ago.” I had to agree, “Yes, we have the letter of the law, I just don’t think we have the full spirit of it yet.” This article is a brief reflection on where I think we need to go to capture the full spirit of the law.

As we approach the act’s 50th anniversary, it is my hope that we can spend some time capturing and documenting evidence of where the act has come to life, is coming to life or is manifesting signs of coming to life for learners and their families in schools and communities across the nation, and particularly across federal Region VI (Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas), the region served by IDRA’s South Central Collaborative for Equity. You can help us to make this happen. I will explain how in a moment. First, let’s look briefly at what the Civil Rights Act was intended to do. – Keep reading

IDRA Names 2014 José A. Cárdenas School Finance Fellow – Dr. Oscar Jimenez-Castellanos

IDRA has named Dr. Oscar Jimenez-Castellanos to be our 2014 José A. Cárdenas School Finance Fellow for this inaugural year of the program, which we have established to honor the memory of IDRA founder, Dr. José Angel Cárdenas. The goal of the program is engage the nation’s most promising researchers in investigating school finance solutions that secure equity and excellence for all public school students.

“Dr. José A. Cárdenas dedicated his life to improving educational opportunities for all children, leading decades-long efforts to achieve school finance equity,” said Dr. María “Cuca” Robledo Montecel, IDRA president. “Research is needed as we continue our work to move to fair funding and opportunity for all students. We are so pleased to have named Dr. Jimenez-Castellanos as our first fellow to advance this research.”– Keep reading

IDRA Research on Fair Funding

Throughout IDRA’s history, our research has assessed fair funding policy efforts undertaken in Texas and other states to examine progress made toward achieving equity in school funding for all students. These efforts have served to inform policymakers, educators and communities about areas where additional reforms are needed and have included specific recommendations to help achieve more equitable funding systems. IDRA fair funding research has impacted policy dating back to IDRA’s inception, leading toward reductions in gaps in funding between property poor and property wealthy school systems. IDRA founder, Dr. José A. Cárdenas, summarized IDRA’s first two decades of this work in Texas School Finance Reform: An IDRA Perspective. IDRA later published The Status of School Finance Equity in Texas – A 2009 Update summarizing changes that had occurred by that point and identifying changes that were still needed.

IDRA’s research on funding for English language learners also has informed state and national policy including our seminal bilingual education cost studies for Texas, Colorado and Utah in the 1970s, finding that the lack of equitable and sufficient funding for special programs has been a continuing problem for decades.

In addition to informing the policymaking process, IDRA’s research has been used in court cases related to equity in funding dating back to the 1970s up to the current school funding equity case in Texas. Our research has informed several court rulings requiring that the state of Texas change its public school funding system in order to make it more equitable for all students and communities. (See story above). More examples and resources from IDRA’s school funding research work are online.

Classnotes Podcasts on Fair Funding

Fair Funding Now! for Excellent Schooling – Episode 102

Implications of Inequitable School Funding – Episode 68

Fundamentals for School Change – Episode 52