I grew up in a small Texas town and moved school districts repeatedly. Each time I struggled academically. The shifts were disorienting but since then, I have dedicated my education, work, and research to explaining the structural inequalities that produce such radically different learning environments just a few miles apart.
In college I joined and eventually helped run a mentoring program that partnered with a school serving socioeconomically disadvantaged students in Austin. The program's accompanying course focused on education reform issues and it was there that I came to see the mutually reinforcing link between property wealth, per-student spending, and school quality. My undergraduate thesis explored northern philanthropy around African American schooling in the South at the turn of the twentieth century.
After college I joined Teach For America and taught high school social studies in South Texas. After moving back to Austin I taught AP Macro and Microeconomics and worked with other teachers, students, and parents to change the stressful culture of the high-performing school at which I worked. I care deeply about the craft of teaching and, upon arriving at Penn, gained a teaching certificate from Penn's Center for Teaching and Learning. In 2019 I participated in the National Humanities Center's Graduate Student Summer Residency program entitled "Objects and Places in an Inquiry-Based Classroom."
My doctoral studies and dissertation are the product of my drive to answer how structural inequalities are built into the public school system. I want my research on the history of school funding to highlight the developmental trajectory that brought us to the present, and, more importantly, how to put us on a different path: one that results in greater equity and excellent schooling for all.
B.A., University of Texas at Austin (2013)
M.A., University of Pennsylvania (2021)
My dissertation uses a case study of Texas’ school finance system to highlight how the United States’ complicated system of school finance developed over time. I employ an historical approach to school finance to detail change over time and illuminate the people and institutions that made the system what it is. Taking a longue durée view of Texas from the 1820s to the present, I capture the ways that Texas is representative of broader state-level school finance issues. Whether it is legacies of segregation and discrimination, rural depopulation and growing cities, or rapid demographic change and low-tax conservatism, Texas history contains important moments that reveal the nuances of school finance development across the nation. Evidence for my dissertation comes from archival sources and newspapers, as well as oral interviews of activists and lawyers from recent judicial battles over school finance equity in Texas.
Public schools reveal the development of American state power better than historians and social scientists have realized because public schooling has long been a major component of state and local government capacities. My dissertation centers local and state public school financing to illustrate broad developments in state power and democratic decision-making in the nineteenth- and twentieth-century United States. School fiscal policy is the foundation upon which all of education is built and powerful actors have structured school finance to reinforce their political and economic advantages. My project explains how that process unfolded and how activists for a more equitable system contested every step.
HIST 108: American Origins (T.A., Spring 2020)
EDUC 668: Master's Seminar in Education, Culture, and Society (T.A., Fall 2018-Spring 2019)
TC 125K: Plan II/KIPP Partnership--University of Texas at Austin (T.A., Fall 2011-Spring 2013)
Graduate School of Education-Education, Culture, and Society Program
Jonathan Zimmerman, GSE (Advisor)
Mia Bay, History (Advisor)
Adam Nelson, University of Wisconsin