When IDRA was formed, disco, bell-bottoms, double knit and long-hair were “in,” and we talked to each other using the latest CB radio technology while waiting in line for gasoline.
Now, we listen to Tejano and rap music while using the latest Internet technology to talk to each other, and on April 1, IDRA began celebrating its 25th year of working for excellence in education for all children. We are taking a little time to reflect on some of the changes we have seen since 1973 when a small group of concerned citizens set out to change the world.
People who knew that change was needed in the way schools were financed were elated in 1971 by their win in the unanimous district court ruling in Rodríguez vs. San Antonio ISD. The Texas system of school finance was unconstitutional.
A group of reform-minded people began meeting in San Antonio and other parts of Texas to provide leadership in the development of a comprehensive, equitable system of school finance. They formed an informal organization named Texans for Educational Excellence.
When the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the Rodríguez decision, Dr. José A. Cárdenas stepped down as superintendent of Edgewood Independent School District (ISD) in San Antonio and became executive director of Texans for Educational Excellence. On April 1, 1973, the organization incorporated and received its first major grant, enabling it to begin business as a full-time statewide mechanism to research and disseminate information on public school finance. Soon afterwards, the organization received tax-exempt status and formally became the Intercultural Development Research Association.
Looking back Dr. Cárdenas commented, “We intended this to be a temporary organization.” The plan was to help the Texas legislature write a law that would create an equitable school finance system, monitor its implementation for a year and then make whatever revisions were necessary. Once this was achieved, IDRA would disband.
“If anyone is to credit for IDRA’s continued existence for 25 years, it is the Texas legislature, because they wouldn’t write that law,” said Dr. Cárdenas.
During the first two years of operation, IDRA focused on school finance reform. It pioneered the identification of wealth categories and how different levels of wealth affect specific aspects of education. IDRA produced numerous publications that analyzed the system, identified problems and proposed solutions. Staff members conducted conferences and seminars to alert people of the school finance disparities and their impact as well as avenues for reform. Though never involved in a lobbying effort, IDRA was repeatedly called upon by members and committees of the Texas Legislature to provide expert information. These activities have been chronicled by Dr. Cárdenas in Texas School Finance Reform: An IDRA Perspective, released last year.
Since those initial years, IDRA has functioned in four areas: research and evaluation, training and technical assistance, materials development, and information dissemination. Now under the leadership of Dr. María “Cuca” Robledo Montecel, IDRA continues to work for school finance equity in Texas and other states as well. A new network of parents is mobilizing with IDRA’s assistance to develop leadership skills and become informed advocates of excellent education for all children.
And although it has broadened its scope to include other issues related to excellence and equity in education, IDRA’s vision has never changed: Making schools work for all children. All IDRA activities and issues of focus are measured by how they will move forward this vision.
The underlying philosophy of IDRA’s vision is that “All children are valuable, none is expendable.” During this anniversary year, each issue of the IDRA Newsletter will highlight a particular aspect of IDRA’s unique philosophy of valuing – valuing children, youth, educators, families, communities and partners.
Christie L. Goodman, APR, is the IDRA communications manager. Comments and questions may be sent to her via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[©1998, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Every effort has been made to maintain the content in its original form. However, accompanying charts and graphs may not be provided here. To receive a copy of the original article by mail or fax, please fill out our information request and feedback form. 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.]