School finance equity has been at the forefront of IDRA’s work since our founding in 1973. It was clear more than three decades ago that if children were to have a reasonable shot at success in school – whether they were from East Los Angeles or Belvedere, the Bronx or Bronxville, West San Antonio or Highland Park – their schools needed to be funded fairly.
In Texas, poor school districts and advocacy groups struggled with the state for over two decades for equal educational opportunities. Up until these efforts saw real success in 1995, Texas’ wealthiest and poorest school districts were separated by a spending gap as large $7,000 per student per year. That gap added up: in one district, high school students hit the books in an astronomy lab; in another students found holes in the ceiling. Then and now, people resisted substantive change. Looking back at the history of the fight for fair funding in Texas, IDRA founder and director emeritus Dr. José A. Cárdenas tells the story of the state educational leader who said: "I know that all kids are equal, but the system has to take into account that some kids are more equal than others."
This idea, that some children are more equal or more deserving of decent schooling than others, must change. This is as true today as it was in 1973, as our nation addresses a new era of funding decisions brought on by the recession and as special interest groups retrench to roll back equity gains that Texans fought so long to achieve.
In "Fair Funding of Schools," Dr. Albert Cortez describes what exactly is at stake in school finance debates and how we must renew our commitment to this issue. The article is complemented by "Strategic Planning for the Effective Use of ARRA Funds," by Dr. Abelardo Villarreal, which examines how schools can use a careful planning process to ensure that this unprecedented federal investment in stimulus funding is spent appropriately, effectively and equitably. Just as our educational system cannot achieve excellence without equity, teaching cannot be considered high quality if some, but not all students, are served. In "Teaching Must be Culturally Relevant to be Quality," Dr. Bradley Scott emphasizes this point, making the case for why teaching quality must be culturally competent, relevant and responsive.
With financial hardship facing the nation, we have the chance as individuals, schools and communities to realign what we spend with what we value. If we value children, then clearly, we must make sure that equitable resources result in an excellent public education that serves each and every child, bar none.
María Robledo Montecel
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[©2009, 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.]