Tools for Action
Enlightened Public Policy – A Lever of Change
IDRA emerged in 1973 as the only entity in the state dedicated exclusively to the reform of the public school finance system. IDRA conducted the necessary research to substantiate the claims made earlier by the plaintiffs in the Rodríguez vs. San Antonio ISD, which had been overturned. IDRA provided state agencies and others with extensive information on the need for reform; prepared and distributed materials; and awakened educators, lawmakers, government officials and the general public to the inequities in the system of school finance and their implications for children’s educational opportunities.
Since then, IDRA has broadened its scope to include other issues related to excellence and equity in education. IDRA’s Quality Schools Action Framework outlined by Dr. María “Cuca” Robledo Montecel a year ago positions “enlightened public policy” as one of three levers of change, along with engaged citizens and accountable leadership, to strengthen school holding power and student success. Enlightened public policy provides both the appropriate standards and the resources schools need to serve all children.
A Snapshot of What IDRA is Doing
Developing Leaders – IDRA is briefing state and local policymakers to provide research and analyses of critical issues for the next legislative session. Some of these issues include school finance, school holding power, and college access and success.
Conducting Research – Recently, IDRA has been analyzing data related to disciplinary alternative education programs in Texas to asses the impact they are having on the state’s students and schools. IDRA’s study in 1999 found that these programs were being used as dumping grounds for “undesirable” students who, once there, got little support. The latest research shows that the same is true today.
Informing Policy – IDRA has been presenting its findings on the state of school holding power in Texas public schools and strategies for improving those figures at gatherings and conferences in recent months. For example, Texas House Bill 1, passed in May, has widened the equity gap by 30 percent. Sharing this vital information is important in helping stakeholders know what has been lost and develop tools to take action for change.
Engaging Communities – Through its Brown and Mendez Community Action Dialogues, IDRA is sharing data and strategies for engaging Latino and African American communities. These dialogues are sparking cross-sector and multicultural dialogue and local action about what can be done together, across all racial groups, to create schools that are equitable and excellent for all children. This information is especially important for community members and parents so that the promise of these Supreme Court decisions, that transformed the nature of U.S. public education, can be fully met.
What You Can Do
Get informed. Ask your school officials about procedures for reporting civil rights complaints and violations. Inquire about appeals processes regarding student placement concerns, disciplinary actions and general treatment of students. The law requires that these processes be posted.
Seek information and get involved in discussions around school funding. Inquire about how your schools are funded in comparison to others locally and in the state.
Get involved. Host and participate in local dialogues and meetings that value diversity and promote working across groups to create access and inclusion for all children and families.
Recommend appropriate changes in policy and practices to break down local barriers to access and success for all students.
Get results. As a resource, IDRA has developed a community action guide that outlines seven actions that communities can take as steps to fulfilling the promise of Brown and Mendez. This booklet outlines seven areas that are emerging from these discussions, such as fair funding, accountable schools, teaching quality, ensuring access and inclusion, and strengthening school holding power. The booklet, A Community Action Guide – Seven Actions to Fulfill the Promise of Brown and Mendez, can be ordered from IDRA for $12.50 or downloaded free online at http://www.idra.org/mendezbrown/promise.html.
[©2000, 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.]