• IDRA Newsletter • August 1996 • 

This month, Dr. José A. Cárdenas, IDRA founder and director emeritus, was presented the Champion of Equity award by the Equity Center in Austin. The Equity Center is a research and advocacy organization in Texas that exclusively represents the interests of low­wealth school districts. It is the largest organization of its kind in the nation.

Below are the remarks made by Bruce Wood, president of the Equity Center, as he presented the award.

“José A. Cárdenas, executive director of the Intercultural Development Research Association for over two decades, is now semi­retired. He recently authored Texas School Finance Reform, a soon­ to­ be ­published book, documenting the history of advocacy, legislation and litigation in school finance reform over the 27 years that he has been actively involved in the process.

“Dr. Cárdenas is the premier pioneer in school finance litigation strategy, both in Texas and across the nation. It all began when, as superintendent of the Edgewood ISD in the late 1960s, he changed Rodriguez vs. San Antonio ISD from a suit against local school districts into a suit against the state of Texas. He remained a major player in Rodriguez all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, where, in effect, school finance reform was thrown back to state legislatures and state courts.

“In 1973, Dr. Cárdenas founded IDRA, originally named Texans for Educational Excellence. Among IDRA’s primary goals were, and still are, the development and implementation of an equitable system of school finance.

“Over the following decade Dr. Cárdenas initiated, organized, hosted or was a major participant in virtually every activity or event that led up to the filing of the original Edgewood petition in 1983. Through consultation with every known national expert on the feasibility and grounds for school finance litigation, and through his own research, Dr. Cárdenas became the intellectual and philosophical master of a strategy that has been successful in the state courts of Texas and other states as well.

“During the course of the seemingly endless Edgewood trials and hearings, Dr. Cárdenas became a pioneer in developing specific solutions that would fit the general guidelines handed down by the courts. He participated in the development of the concept underlying the County Education District system, which, though ruled unconstitutional, set the stage for the current five­option recapture system.

“The highlight of his participation in the Edgewood litigation came when he was appointed by State District Judge Scott McCown to serve as a co­master to develop an alternative system of school finance that the courts would impose in the event the legislature failed to meet the court’s deadline for a legislative solution.

“Finally, Dr. Cárdenas has been a pioneer in the creation of other advocacy groups to carry on and expand the fight for school finance reform. Not the least of these is the Equity Center, and we are most grateful for the assistance Dr. Cárdenas gave to Jimmy Vasquez, James Lehmann and Craig Foster when they were struggling to get the center up and running.”

Congratulations, Dr. Cárdenas!

Comments and questions may be sent via e-mail to feedback@idra.org.

[©1996, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the August 1996 IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]