School Funding Research

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 Texas School Finance Dashboards feature the State versus Local Share Dashboard, which compares the portion of state versus local funding to school districts; the Texas Bilingual Education Funding Dashboard, which shows the amount of bilingual education dollars from the state, including the new dual language allotment, going to school districts; and the Texas Special Education Funding Dashboard, which shows special education funding from the state for each Texas school district.

IDRA’s research on funding for emergent bilingual students (English 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 on entitled: “The Latest Texas School Finance Equity and Adequacy Court Case – Round Six Texas Taxpayers and Student Fairness Coalition et al vs. Williams“).

The 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. 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.

IDRA named Marialena Rivera as the 2016 José A. Cárdenas School Finance Fellow. 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.