Dr. José Angel Cárdenas was working in educational research in the late 1960s, prior to becoming the superintendent of the Edgewood Independent School District in San Antonio.
“In one powerful moment, it all came together for me. Scientists had experimented with amoebas in a laboratory, and by using their reactions to color and light, they had trained these amoebas to recognize letters of the alphabet. And I thought, ‘What if the amoebas had been sent to public schools instead? Then I would be hearing what I always heard about non-readers in our schools: ‘They don’t speak our language!’ ‘They’re amoeba! How can you expect them to learn?’ ‘They come from the wrong side of the pond.’
“What was different and special for those particular amoebas wasn’t their readiness to learn compared with other amoebas, but the context: the laboratory and all the equipment, the skills of the technicians, the elegant process the scientists had designed specifically for amoebas. And I was sure that all children could learn if their schools had effective curricula and material and were properly equipped and their teachers were well-trained and exercised every effort to teach them.
From that moment, Dr. José Angel Cárdenas, IDRA founder, pledged to defend all children and their right to an excellent and equitable education. Children who are minority, immigrant, migrant, poor, or non-English speaking often have no voice. The story of the founding of IDRA is told in the book, Texas School Finance Reform: An IDRA Perspective. In that book, the late Dr. José Angel Cárdenas states: “If students are faltering, failing, or leaving school, then their schools – not the students – need to change in fundamental ways.”
IDRA’s next President & CEO, Dr. María “Cuca” Robledo Montecel, carried forward IDRA’s mission to assure educational opportunity for every child. “Our dream and our work at IDRA is for a future in which the color of a child’s skin, the language a child speaks and the side of town that a child comes from are no longer considered barriers to a great education and a good life.” For more than two decades, Dr. Robledo Montecel, led IDRA as a dynamic, independent organization with constancy of purpose, commitment, principles, and courage.
As IDRA’s third president and CEO, Celina Moreno, J.D., is building on IDRA’s powerful legacy to strengthen and transform public education by providing dynamic educator training, actionable research, and bold policy advocacy; directing powerful student and parent leadership programs; and building people power to create schools that nourish all students. IDRA remains dedicated to the improvement of educational opportunities for children. The issues IDRA has framed and the solutions that have been created, by IDRA and our partners, are all firmly grounded in this purpose.