IDRA’s First Education Policy Fellows Reflect on their Experience and the Texas Legislature

(San Antonio • February 15, 2022) IDRA changed the landscape of Texas education by training advocates to influence state law and lead a powerful network of impacted communities, according to a report released today. Texas policy advocacy is traditionally run by people who do not reflect the population of its K-12 schools, 72% of whom are students of color.

Leading into the 2021 session, IDRA launched its groundbreaking program and introduced four Education Policy Fellows to amplify the voices of communities of color across the state.

“In my 40 years of conducting evaluation interviews, I have never interviewed a more passionate group who were so eager to share the tremendous impact this fellowship had on their personal lives, their careers, and their educational goals,” said evaluator Dr. Nancy Chavkin. Dr. Chavkin is the Regents’ Professor and University Distinguished Professor of Social Work at Texas State University.

“Effective education policymaking requires authentic engagement with diverse communities, particularly with those that have been denied meaningful access for so long,” said Morgan Craven, J.D., IDRA’s National Director of Policy, Advocacy, and Community Engagement. “Our first cohort of Education Policy Fellows elevated IDRA’s model of collective, community-centered advocacy, ensuring that young people, communities of color, and families can understand and take part in shaping state law.”

The report, IDRA Education Policy Fellows Program Evaluation Report – With Key Themes from Interviews, concludes: “The results are indisputable. Not only have the fellows benefitted from this program, but Texas legislative policy has benefitted. IDRA has benefitted. Children and families have benefitted. There are more voices of color in the policy arena…The program has been transformative on multiple levels.”

“Research has long told us that representation matters,” said Kent McGuire, Program Director of Education at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. “The IDRA Education Policy Fellows program affirms that creating space for more students, families and impacted communities at the education policy table is key to building strong schools.”

“Focusing on state-level policy helps ensure a strong future for Texas, but only if we ensure that communities of color have a voice in imagining and creating that future,” said Kristin Boyer, Executive Director for the Trellis Foundation. “We are energized by the work that the IDRA Education Policy Fellows Program accomplished, and we are proud to have supported fellows’ efforts to connect theory, policy and practice through their experiences and within their communities.”

“Policy, especially education policy, has the potential to impact generations of families and children, that’s why it’s imperative that those influencing state law reflect the lived experiences and diverse identities of the constituents they serve,” said Edward Smith, Ph.D., Senior Program Officer at the Kresge Foundation. “It’s important that we build strong racially diverse pipelines of talent through efforts like the IDRA’s Education Policy Fellows program, to ensure a more just and equitable future.”

See fellows’ profiles and their fellowship productsFellows-Products-cluster

During their nine-month fellowship, IDRA’s Education Policy Fellows worked with policymakers to inform policy proposals, presented 22 testimonies, and partnered with and formed coalitions of students, families and advocates focused on improving racial equity in education policymaking spaces. Fellows produced eight policy analyses and research reports, 11 articles, four op-eds and media interviews, five podcast episodes, a digital equity video advocacy campaign, and over a dozen virtual community engagement events. They also helped IDRA lead a series of 10 virtual “office hours” events to help advocates prepare their own testimony.

“I felt like if it weren’t for this fellowship, there wouldn’t have been any voices of color,” one fellow reported. “If it weren’t for our voices, no one would be here, especially in the middle of the night when they held some of those hearings.”

The first cycle of the IDRA Education Policy Fellows Program was generously supported by The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Trellis Foundation, and Kresge Foundation, and in partnership with the John Gardner Public Service Fellowship, facilitated by Stanford University’s Haas Center for Public Service.

Podcast Interviews with our Policy Fellows

As IDRA’s groundbreaking Education Policy Fellows Program closed its inaugural year, we sat down with our four fellows to reflect on their experience. They describe what attracted them to the fellowship and what they gained from it; their experiences advocating with communities of color in the Texas Legislature; the good, bad and ugly of the 87th Texas legislative session; and their thoughts on the future of advocacy, their advice from what they’ve learned and their personal plans post-fellowship. Go to podcast interviews.

Updated 2/24/22