Tools For Action
In Texas, the public school funding system creates schools where the quality of education that a child receives is based on the wealth of the neighborhood in which he or she happens to live plus some equalization funding from the state. In May 2006, the Texas Legislature passed House Bill 1, which took the funding system back a decade. It is imperative that educators, families and communities are aware of funding inequity and how it affects everyone.
A Snapshot of What IDRA is Doing
Developing leaders – IDRA has worked with several organizations in identifying key reform issues in such areas as school funding equity and funding for dropout prevention, bilingual education, and college access and success. The groups have then been outlining potential collaborative efforts.
Conducting research – IDRA has collected numerous documents that provide different organizations’ perspectives on major education issues that may be addressed in the 2007 Texas legislative session. IDRA is developing summary information that will be disseminated to education stakeholders through presentations and web-based delivery strategies.
Informing policy – IDRA has been working with several organizations across the state to lead a briefing for state policymakers on the issues surrounding the high school dropout crisis. The session was presented by: Children at Risk, Rice University – Center for Education, the Center for Public Policy Priorities, the University of Texas –Texas Center for Educational Policy Texas Appleseed and IDRA. The group released a set of nine principles for solutions, “Addressing the Dropout Crisis in Texas: Principles for Action” (http://www.idra.org/images/stories/PrinciplesForAction.pdf). You can also see the PowerPoint presentation used in the session covering an overview of the dropout crisis, the magnitude and impact of the problem, and rationale and principles for solutions at: http://www.idra.org/images/stories/TexasDropoutCrisisPresentation.ppt.
Engaging communities – The school finance section of the IDRA web site is being updated with new revenue data based on the changes made in HB1. Community members can visit the site to see how the recent policy changes are affecting their districts. You can see this and other policy information on the education policy section of IDRA’s web site by going to: http://www.idra.org/education-policy/.
What You Can Do
Get informed. The Center for Public Policy Priority’s web site has a great deal of information on the happenings around school finance in the capitol. You can read more about school finance and other important education topics at http://www.cppp.org.
The Center for Public Policy Priority’s web site has a great deal of information on the happenings around school finance in the capitol. You can read more about school finance and other important education topics at .
The IDRA web site has a section under Education Policy where you can find out how funding is broken down by district at: http://www.idra.orghttp://184.108.40.206/funding/districtpro.php.
The IDRA web site also has a section to help you learn more about the issue, including: Why Fair Funding (quickly find out where we’ve been and where we are now); Equity vs. Adequacy (why “adequate” schools set the bar too low); and Quick Background (why fair funding depends on our state, how your schools are funded; how your property taxes are calculated; and how the current system promotes equity). Go to http://www.idra.org/education_policy/fair-funding-common-good/.
Geocities.com has created a web site that presents an overview of the funding disparities that plague U.S. schools. The site provides a general idea of the scope and nature of the problem, as well as the research that has been done: http://www.geocities.com/schoolfunding/.
Get involved. Local education funds are independent, non-profit organizations at the center of reform efforts to improve public education and reconnect people to the institution of public education. The Public Education Network has developed a new handbook with step-by-step information on how to establish and run a local education fund. Go to http://transaction.publiceducation.org/LEF_Handbook/.
Get results. Nationwide, people identify education as a top priority and are willing to pay more to support an educational system that reflects greater equity and yields better results. If you agree with these views and believe that all children must have access to an excellent – not minimally adequate – education, voice your concerns and mobilize others to join you. You can also get results by becoming a local resource to your school, board, community group or other parents on how various school finance policies impact children in your community, district and state.
[©2007, 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.]