Texas School Finance Reform: An IDRA Perspective

José A. Cárdenas, Ed.D.



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A master story-teller, Dr. José A. Cárdenas offers an insider’s view of the 28-year history of school finance in Texas. Dr. Cárdenas is the founder and director emeritus of IDRA and is the only person who has been actively involved in the entire school finance reform effort since the early days of the Rodriguez vs. San Antonio ISD litigation when he was superintendent of the Edgewood Independent School District. More than a history, this book provides a blueprint for persons interested in bringing about future reform in schools and other social institutions. Beginning with a description of the Texas system in 1950, the account covers court cases, legislation, and advocacy efforts and concludes with the status and future of school finance reform.

Personal vignettes sprinkled throughout offer glimpses of those special untold moments that impacted history. Much of this volume – including the myths of school finance and lessons learned – relate to reform efforts in other states as well. Dr. James A. Kelly, president of the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards, provides a foreword, “Fighting the Good Fight,” describing Dr. Cárdenas as a trailblazer and pioneer. As a former program officer for the Ford Foundation, Dr. Kelly coordinated support for school finance reform efforts around the country.

“He worked hard, he played hard. And in doing so, never lost sight of his goal. Because, for José, school finance reform was never really an end in itself. It remained (and remains) a means to a larger end: to improve teaching and learning for all children; in particular, to improve the life chances of the poor and dispossessed… This book is a testimony to a life lived in pursuit of that dream, one which paid off for all of Texas’ children.” – Dr. James A. Kelly

Officially released on April 29, 1997 – the 10th anniversary of the Edgewood decision by State Superior Judge of Travis County Harley Clark that struck down Texas’ school finance system as unconstitutional.

Following the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court reversal of the Rodríguez decision that found the Texas system of school finance unconstitutional, Cárdenas resigned from the Edgewood Independent School District to establish a non-profit organization (IDRA) to advocate school finance reform. Staff members from the organization participated in each reform study group, attended each session of the Texas legislature and provided research data and testimony during litigation in the state courts.

Judging by the number of inquiries received at IDRA, historians, sociologists, political scientists and educators have a strong interest concerning the who, what, when and how of the Texas school reform. Unfortunately, there is little public information available on the catalytic forces responsible for the reform.

“In the absence of accurate information, a substantial amount of erroneous information is surfacing concerning actors and roles during the period of reform,” said Cárdenas. “Persons who performed trivial roles are being credited with leadership roles; persons who made substantial contributions are being ignored.”


Product Description

(ISBN: 1-878550-63-2; Hardback; 387 Pages; 1997; $30.00 – out of print – free online)