School Finance and Opportunity: The Law and the Road Ahead

In the landmark decision of San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez, the US Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Texas school finance system, ruling that there was no “fundamental right” to education. Since the 1973 decision, countless state-level lawsuits on school finance have taken place nationwide, including recent cases in Connecticut, Nevada, and Texas.

Join AEI as a panel of experts discusses pressing issues surrounding school finance and how states and districts can ensure a high-quality education for all students.

Join the conversation on social media with #SchoolFinance.

If you are unable to attend, we welcome you to watch the event live on this page.

Speaker Biographies

David Hinojosa has become a national leading advocate and litigator in the area of civil rights, with a focus on educational impact issues. As director of the EAC-South for the Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA), he spearheads IDRA’s historic work in assisting states and school districts to desegregate their educational programs in the areas of race, national origin, sex and gender, and religion. As IDRA’s national director of policy, he leads national and state policy reform efforts in creating greater educational equity and access for all students, with special emphasis on underserved students and students of color. He previously served as a staff attorney, senior litigator, and regional counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) for 12 years, where he led systemic impact civil rights litigation. His successful efforts led to preserving the Texas DREAM Act, breaking down the segregation of Latino and African American students in schools, protecting access to driver’s licenses for immigrants in New Mexico and Texas, and creating greater equity in school funding, among other successes. He has also published two book chapters and several articles and op-eds on education equity and is frequently called to address local, state, and national audiences. A former air traffic controller in the US Air Force, he received his B.A. from New Mexico State University and his J.D. from the University of Texas at Austin School of Law.

Jim Kelly is the president of Solidarity Center for Law and Justice P.C., a public interest civil and human rights law firm based in Atlanta, Georgia. He also serves as the director of international affairs for the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies, a professional law association based in Washington, DC, with approximately 43,000 members. He directs the Federalist Society’s European Judicial Network, consisting of leading jurists from national constitutional courts in Central and Eastern Europe and the European Court of Human Rights. In 2005, President George W. Bush appointed Mr. Kelly to serve as the Federalist Society’s representative on the US National Commission for the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). For four years, he served as chairman of UNESCO’s Social and Human Sciences Committee. He was the author of the Georgia Charter Schools Act of 1998 and is the founder and volunteer general counsel for the Georgia GOAL Scholarship Program, which is Georgia’s largest student scholarship program operating under the state’s tuition tax credit scholarship law. He earned a master of taxation degree from Georgia State University, a J.D. degree from the University of Georgia, a master of nonprofit management degree from Regis University, and a master of arts in international relations from Salve Regina University.

Gerard Robinson is a resident fellow at AEI, where he works on education policy issues including choice in public and private schools, implementation of K–12 standards, innovation in for-profit educational institutions, and the role of community colleges and Historically Black Colleges and Universities in adult advancement. Before joining AEI, Mr. Robinson served as commissioner of education for Florida and secretary of education for Virginia. As president of the Black Alliance for Educational Options, he worked to ensure that children in low-income and working-class black families in several states and the District of Columbia were given the opportunity to attend good schools. Throughout his career he has evaluated the effects of reform initiatives on parental choice and student achievement, advocated for laws to improve delivery of teaching and learning, and published essays on how to make good policy to give all children a chance at a good job and future. A proponent of the importance of education to civil society, Mr. Robinson has spoken before audiences in the United States, China, and the United Kingdom. He started his career by teaching fifth grade in a private, inner-city school. He is a member of many education-related boards. His issue brief for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools was cited in an amicus brief presented before the Supreme Court of Georgia in 2013. He has a master of education degree from Harvard University, a B.A. in philosophy from Howard University, and an A.A. from El Camino College.

Kimberly Robinson is a national expert who speaks domestically and internationally on educational equity, equal educational opportunity, civil rights, and the federal role in education. Her most recent published article, titled “Disrupting Education Federalism” in the Washington University Law Review, won the 2016 Steven S. Goldberg Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Education Law from the Education Law Association. She is the co-editor, with Charles Ogletree Jr., of “The Enduring Legacy of Rodriguez: Creating New Pathways to Equal Educational Opportunity” (Harvard Education Press, 2015). Ms. Robinson is a professor of law at University of Richmond School of Law and a researcher at the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard Law School. Her scholarship has appeared in the Harvard Law Review, Stanford Law and Policy Review, University of Chicago Law Review, Boston College Law Review, William and Mary Law Review, and UC Davis Law Review, among other venues. Before joining the Richmond Law faculty in 2010, she was an associate professor at Emory University School of Law and a visiting fellow at George Washington University Law School. She also served in the General Counsel’s Office of the United States Department of Education, where she helped draft federal policy on issues of race, sex, and disability discrimination. In addition, she represented school districts in school finance and constitutional law litigation as an associate with Hogan & Hartson LLP (now Hogan Lovells). She also has written editorials that address national education law and policy issues, and she organized a conference to analyze the impact of the Supreme Court’s decision in San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez in 2013.

Rocco Testani is a partner in the law firm of Sutherland Asbill & Brennan, where he leads the firm’s education, government, and civil rights litigation practice. He has represented state and local government officials nationwide in some of the most significant school finance matters over the past 20 years, including educational adequacy and equity cases and school desegregation cases. Most recently, he served as lead counsel to the Florida House of Representatives, Senate, and State Board of Education in defense of a constitutional challenge to Florida’s $19 billion K–12 public school funding system and the state’s charter school and other educational choice programs. He has also represented the states of New York, North Dakota, Minnesota, and Georgia in similar adequacy lawsuits. For the state of Missouri, Mr. Rocco served as co-counsel with the state attorney general’s office in a successful effort to release the state from further extraordinary financial liability for the Kansas City schools in the long-running Jenkins v. Missouri case. He has served as an outside general counsel for large metropolitan school districts and regularly represents several Atlanta-area charter and private schools. He is a magna cum laude graduate of the University of Michigan Law School and earned his undergraduate degree, summa cum laude, from Emory University.

Simulcast with permission from the American Enterprise Institute.

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