Jim Ekrut
Economics, Political Science
Material Type:
Case Study
Upper Primary, Middle School
Creative Commons Attribution

Education Standards

Does Funding for Education Matter in Texas?

Does Funding for Education Matter in Texas?


From the 1960s to the 1990s, economically-disadvantaged school districts, primarily Latino, in Texas struggled to gain more adequate funding for their children's education. At first halted by a Supreme Court ruling, one leader gained additional support and continued pressing the issue, with the result that eventually the Court reversed its stance and required the state to develop a more equitable funding plan.

Students will consider the historic actions taken by the communities and the Court and how their own community action can and should make a difference.

Why Is Working for Fair Treatment Important?

Activity Plan Template- Educator  


Program Title: Does Equal Funding for Education Matter in Texas? 

TPS (Teaching with Primary Sources) Western Region Location  




Level Intermediate 

Suggested length, 60-75 min. (may divide for two sessions) 

Overarching Question: 

Why is working for fair   treatment important?  


Target Audience, 

Grades 5-8 



Resources Used   


Social Justice  

Standards     ID.3-5.2: I know about my family history and culture and about current and past contributions of people in my main identity groups.  
DI.3-5.10: I know that the way groups of people are treated today, and the way they have been treated in the past, is a part of what makes them who they are.  
JU.3-5.15 I know about the actions of people and groups who have worked throughout history to bring more justice and fairness to the world. AC.3-5.20: I will work with my friends and family to make our school and community fair for everyone, and we will work hard and cooperate to achieve our goals. 


Facing History and   

Ourselves Use the Big Paper (p. 11) strategy for main activity: students will self-select or be assigned as appropriate to heterogeneous groups for silent reflection within their own group first, and then to respond in writing to others’ written statements. Breaking silence and large group discussion will follow.  


Library of Congress   

Teacher Resources, photo:  



C3 Teachers: Inquiry  

Design Model Dimension 1, compelling questions D1.5.3-5. Determine the kinds of sources that will be helpful in answering compelling and supporting questions, taking into consideration the different opinions people have about how to answer the questions. Dimension2, disciplinary studies D2.2.3-5. Explain how a democracy relies on people’s responsible participation, and draw implications for how individuals should participate. Dimension 3, Evaluating sources and using evidence D3.3.3-5. Identify evidence that draws information from multiple sources in response to compelling questions. D3.4.3-5. Use evidence to develop claims in response to compelling questions. 


Additional sources: (Texas, not LOC, source for teacher reference):  


Introductory Text/   

Program justification: Equal funding for education in Texas is an ongoing struggle, particularly regarding the differences between resources for White students and those of color, the majority of whom are Latinx. In 1968, Demetrio Rodriguez led parents from low-income school districts to file a lawsuit claiming unfair disparity in school funding. The initial ruling was in their favor, but the state appealed. In 1973, the Supreme Court ruled that unequal funding of education was not discriminatory nor was equal education a fundamental “right.” In 1984, the same gentleman, joined by additional organizations, filed another lawsuit, and the opinion of the Court was reversed in 1992, twenty-four years after the initial suit was filed, forcing Texas to revise its education funding plan.  


(An extension lesson or activity could be an overview of Texas’ “Robin Hood” education funding plan, extracting tax dollars from wealthier districts, and re-distributing them to economically-disadvantaged areas. A role-playing debate with students taking wealthy- or impoverished-district arguments could be enlightening!) 


Materials needed: online devices or print materials and writing/drawing instruments; at least one online device to compile responses for online storage and display. Butcher/poster paper and markers for the main group activity. 

Technology: Access to LOC, or images and web page text can be printed; a simple but usable solution is online devices using the Seesaw app with a teacher-created classroom group for moderated posting and sharing 


Consumables & Copies: images printed as needed, copies of website historical summary as needed 


LOC Primary Source links 
Powell, Lewis F., Jr, and Supreme Court of the United States. U.S. Reports: San Antonio School District v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 1. 1972. Periodical. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <>. 

Lee, Russell, photographer. Mexican boy in front of community water hydrant and sink, San Antonio, Texas. Mar. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <>.  
Historic American Buildings Survey, Creator, and Charles Anderson. Argyle House, 924 Patterson & Argyle-Alamo Heights, San Antonio, Bexar County, TX. Documentation Compiled After. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <>. 



Jurisdiction: the official power to make legal decisions 

Discriminatory: making unfair distinctions between people or things 

Unconstitutional: not according to the Constitution or its rules 

Inequitable: not equal or fair 

Affluent: rich, wealthy 

Plaintiff: a person who sues someone in court 

Fundamental: basic, important at the core 

Entity: something that exists independently, like a person, group, or organization 


Entry Activity/Task (suggest using pollev, active only 2 days, however) “How do you think money is important for a good/quality education?” (Single question, will have to be reactivated or recreated at time of presentation) Responses can also be paper or verbal and recorded. 7 min. to complete and discuss 

Large Group Activity/Task Review picture of “Mexican” boy, 19th century, San Antonio, Texas 

Questions (Observe, Reflect, Question): What do you see? Why is this photo important? What do you wonder about? 

(Sample responses: extremely limited resources/poverty, dressed for school, looking for friends or transportation; waiting to be chosen for an activity...) 


Compare: review picture of home in Alamo Heights (area delineated in 1968 lawsuit)  
Same Observe, Reflect, Question process (Could the boy, above, live here? How might the boy’s school and children from this home’s school be different? How might the boy feel when visiting this home or the school that the family’s children attend?) 


10-15 minutes total for the leader to introduce, then students consider and discuss both images 


(This could be a break or dividing point for sessions one, two if needed.) 


Small group Big Paper activity 

Students are divided into heterogeneous groups for their main activity. Students have 15 minutes to read silently, reflect, and write responses regarding the historical summary from The Library, considering the questions, below:  

(NOTE: the above and the following sections are done in silence, with exclusively written responses. If the leader determines, students may use simplified text, inserted at end of activity plan. Alternatively, text could be uploaded into OneNote for use with Immersive Reader.) 


5 minutes to observe and add written comments to other groups’ written statements 

10 minutes large group breaking silence and discussing their and other groups’ responses.  

To include in discussion: 

Observation questions: Who led the lawsuits in 1968 and 1984? (Same parent, D. Rodriguez) 

How much time passed between the first lawsuit being filed and state funding declared unconstitutional? (24 years) 

Were this leader’s children going to benefit? (Highly unlikely, but grandchildren) 

Reflect: Why perhaps did Mr. Rodriguez continue this struggle? (support his grandchildren, his community?) 

Action: Question: What do I notice that seems unfair at my school, and how can I help? 


Conclusion Activity/Task also serves as Assessment of Learning: (individually) Draw, write, or record your ideas/images of a fair education (e.g., What I learned about fair education; why action is necessary; what I will do to support fair treatment in my classroom and school.) 

This may be, but it is not limited to your ideal classroom. 10 min. Paper/pencil, shared Google Slides or PowerPoint; Padlet, Jamboard, Whiteboard or Flipgrid (90 sec. Response) 


Student Learning Accommodations & Modifications: students may respond on paper, verbally, or digitally; heterogeneous groups; Immersive Reader available in Flipgrid for translation or text modification of topic, response captioning, and comments 


Multicultural Consideration: create a safe place for learners of all ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds to express their opinions without fear of retaliation and/or criticism. 


Adapted from template by Creator: Morgen Larsen for  

Except where otherwise noted, this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License  

Web page text as simplified by  

The 5-4 United States Supreme Court decision in San Antonio ISD v. Rodriguez (1973) ruled no (right guaranteed by the Constitution) to an equal education, held no violation of rights in Texas' school system, and reserved legal control/area of legal control and management of Texas' public school finance system to the state. 
On July 10, 1968, Demitrio Rodriguez and a group of San Antonio parents filed a class action lawsuit for minority students from poor school districts. Their lawyer, Arthur Gochman, criticized/insulted Texas' unfair public school finance system, and showed that the Edgewood district, with a mostly Mexican-American population, and one of the highest tax rates in the Bexar Country, received $37 per pupil, while the richer and (white American) students in Alamo Heights got $413 per pupil. 
A three-judge federal district court ruled in favor of the people (who sued or are suing someone) finding Texas' public school finance system (treating certain groups of people unfairly) based on wealth. They argued this inequality was (going against something in the Constitution) under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Change. Also, they ruled that education is a "basic" right. The State of Texas appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. 
On March 21, 1973, Justice Powell delivered the Supreme Court decision stating that the "Equal Protection Clause does not require complete and total (state where all things are equal) of exactly equal advantages". What is more, the court ruled that the State of Texas had not "took away" any student access to education, a thing/business not protected by the 14th Change. They also found no happening (unfair treatment based on skin color, age, etc.) on the basis of wealth, and kept/held management of school money/giving money (to) methods to the state and its representatives. 
In 1984, Rodriguez v. San Antonio ISD (1973) led to another U.S. Supreme Court hugely important case: Edgewood Independent School District v. Kirby (1992), where Demitrio Rodriguez, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), and parent associations challenged Texas' school money/giving money (to) system again. In 1992, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the people (who sued or are suing someone) and held Texas' school financing system (going against something in the Constitution).