Public Policy is Strengthening Foundations for Access, Equity and Excellence
A few weeks ago, on a hot summer day in Austin, education leaders from around the state of Texas gathered on the capitol steps to lend their voices to the call for school finance equity and unveil six steps to education reform. Representing thousands of Texans as the Texas Latino Education Coalition, they pressed for policymaking that (1) keeps and improves equitable school funding between property rich and property poor districts; (2) substantially funds facilities construction; (3) keeps and increases funding weights to meet the needs of students who are English language learners, economically disadvantaged, gifted and talented or have disabilities; (4) funds a significant pay raise for all teachers; (5) eliminates further state governance and decouples high-stakes testing from accountability systems; and (6) gives public schools the public resources they need to succeed.
In expressing their commitment to public schools that have the resources to provide a high quality education to every child in Texas, these leaders are part of a legacy of activism that extends from our nation’s greatest civil rights victories to sound policymaking that forms the foundation of successful schooling for all children.
While the inter-relationships between courtrooms, capitals and classrooms are often obscured by technical language and political rhetoric, they clearly shape student opportunities and futures. Without constitutionally-guaranteed civil rights and civil rights legislation, we would not have desegregation. Without equitably funded schools, desegregation would be but a promise and idealized notion. Without fair funding, our childrens’ life chances would be bounded by where they happen to live or come from.
For this reason, IDRA takes a stand not only for quality teaching and learning that benefits all children, but also for the equitable resources that will make this a reality. IDRA promotes not only policymaking that reflects sound, accurate information about schooling, but also policymaking that reflects the voice and will of parents, community members, and educators as leaders in opening paths for all students’ futures.
A Snapshot of What IDRA is Doing
Conducting Research – Throughout Texas’ latest special session on school finance, IDRA has provided the equity analysis that equips policymakers, community members and educators with the information they need to assess how new funding proposals would affect student opportunities and learning.
Developing Leaders – In partnership with new TLEC member organizations, IDRA is providing the information and legislative analysis networks need to strengthen their own leadership and advocacy on behalf of children.
Informing Policy – Taking up a key policy recommendation from the recent InterAction Forums (InterAction: Higher Education and Latinos in the New Millennium http://www.idra.org/education_policy/interaction/), IDRA is examining the benefits and shortcomings of various 10 percent plans, designed to expand minority access to higher education. (To learn more about the full range of policy solutions that would increase college access and success for minority students, see http://www.idra.org/education_policy/interaction/.)
Engaging Communities – Through a partnership with TLEC, a growing network of educators, school administrators and community leaders has mobilized over 1,000 Texans in support of equitable school finance policy. Working closely with African American and Latino education leaders in Texas and across the country, IDRA is building a network of informed, connected leadership prepared to advocate on behalf of educational access, equity and success.
What You Can Do
Get informed to learn more about school finance debates in Texas and receive regular e-mail updates, you can register at http://www.texans4fairfunding.org/proposed.asp. For links to a broad range of information and resources on school finance equity, see: http://www.texans4fairfunding.org/linkup.asp
Get involved as a community member, family member, school board member or superintendent, assess how changes in school finance equity would directly impact your local schools and students.
Get results let legislators know now – as bills are right now in development – how any change in equitable funding would affect your district and community. Join an active network of education leaders and advocates as a member of the TLEC, http://www.texans4fairfunding.org/about.asp.
[©2005, 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.]