José A. Cárdenas School Finance Fellows Program

drcardenasThe José A. Cárdenas School Finance Fellows Program was established in 2013 by IDRA to honor the memory of IDRA founder, Dr. José Angel Cárdenas. The goal of the program is to engage the nation’s most promising researchers in investigating school finance solutions that secure equity and excellence for all public school students.

Program Framework

Under the leadership of Dr. María “Cuca” Robledo Montecel, IDRA President & CEO, the José A. Cárdenas School Finance Fellows Program focuses on and funds school finance research that builds cross-disciplinary and inter-sector perspectives on equity. IDRA selects one or more fellows per year who will dedicate themselves to a period of intense study and writing in school finance. IDRA holds an annual symposium that includes the release of the fellows program paper. The paper and findings are published in the symposium proceedings and disseminated to the education research and policymaker community. Learn more about IDRA’s inaugural symposium in 2015. And learn about our 2017 symposium at AERA.

Call for Applications from 2019

Key Dates

  • March 22, 2019 – Applications due
  • April 2019 – Notifications to applicants
  • May 2019 – Formalize agreements and announce selection
  • Spring-Summer 2019 – Fellow, in consultation with IDRA, conducts research and develops initial findings, completes one-month post as Fellow in Residence, and submits research paper
  • Fall 2019 – Fellows paper is finalized and symposium planned; application process begins for 2016 fellow.
  • Spring 2020 – IDRA José A. Cárdenas School Finance Symposium is held

2016 IDRA José A. Cárdenas School Finance Fellow: Dr. Marialena Rivera

IDRA has named Marialena Rivera as the 2016 José A. Cárdenas School Finance Fellow. Marialena D. Rivera received her doctorate from the University of California Berkeley’s Graduate School of Education in the Policy, Organization, Measurement and Evaluation program. She is an assistant professor in the educational leadership program at Texas State University. Her research focuses on the politics of education policy, privatization, school finance, and school leadership for school improvement. Her dissertation research explores school district debt financing and the politics of privatization. Rivera is from San Antonio and attended the University of Texas at Austin where she received a bachelor of business administration in the Business Honors Program and Marketing and a bachelor of arts in government. She earned a master of science for teachers at Pace University while teaching middle school in the Bronx, New York, and a master of public policy from the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California Berkeley.

At a research symposium at AERA in April 2017, Dr. Rivera provided a briefing on her study, “What about the Schools? – Factors Contributing to Expanded State Investment in School Facilities,” followed by a panel discussion with experts from across the country. Through case studies of five states with varying facilities policies, Dr. Rivera’s study examines the factors contributing to expanded state investment in equitable public school facilities and how those factors can be leveraged to encourage states that make minimal investments to expand their support for facilities funding. The five case study states are Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio, Texas and Wyoming. Get information on the event at AERA in 2017, State Investment in School Facilities – José A. Cárdenas 2017 School Finance Fellows Program Research Symposium, along with the study and related materials.

2014 IDRA José A. Cárdenas School Finance Fellows Program: Dr. Oscar Jimenez-Castellanos

IDRA named Dr. Oscar Jimenez-Castellanos to be our 2014 José A. Cárdenas School Finance Fellow for the inaugural year of the program. An assistant professor in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University, Dr. Jimenez-Castellanos has published extensively in the area of K-12 education finance, policy and parent engagement and its impact on opportunity, equity and outcomes in low-income ethnically and linguistically diverse communities. Read the announcement about Dr. Jimenez-Castellanos and IDRA’s new fellowship program.

As IDRA’s 2014 José A. Cárdenas School Finance Fellow, he conducted an important and timely empirical study to examine the amount of supplemental funding above the base funding level that is required to effectively implement appropriate services for English language learners at the secondary level in the State of Texas. Dr. Oscar Jimenez-Castellanos, IDRA’s inaugural José A. Cárdenas School Finance Fellow, presented his research findings on securing educational equity & excellence for English language learners in Texas secondary schools at a symposium in San Antonio. A proceedings document was published with key insights from the symposium along with the research study conducted by Dr. Jimenez-Castellanos and a set of recommendations useful for policymakers, educators, community and business leaders and parents.


Dr. Cárdenas was actively involved in the school finance reform efforts since the early days of the Rodríguez vs. San Antonio ISD litigation when he was superintendent of the Edgewood ISD. Following the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court reversal of the Rodríguez decision that found the Texas system of school finance unconstitutional, he resigned from the Edgewood ISD to establish IDRA to advocate school finance reform and improved educational opportunities for all children. He led decades-long efforts to achieve school finance equity and was instrumental in the Edgewood court cases. His research, articles and books provided a blueprint for those interested in bringing about future reform in schools and other social institutions.

In the foreword of Dr. Cárdenas’ book, Texas School Finance Reform: An IDRA Perspective,Dr. James A. Kelly stated: “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 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.”