Mar 14, 2023 - News

50 years since landmark Edgewood education case

Demetrio Rodriguez outside an Edgewood ISD campus with his sons.

Demetrio Rodriguez with his sons outside Edgewood Elementary School. Photo: Courtesy of Patty Rodriguez

Fifty years ago this month, in the case of Rodriguez vs. San Antonio ISD, the Supreme Court ruled that there was no constitutional right to education.

Why it matters: The case sparked equity conversations nationwide.

Driving the news: Trinity University, the Intercultural Research Development Association and Edgewood ISD on March 22 will host a commemoration of the decision.

  • The event will feature panel discussions reflecting on the decision's impact and history.

Context: In May 1968, Edgewood High School students walked out in protest of education inequities.

  • Manuel Garza, who was a junior at the time, tells Axios there was a lack of certified teachers, schools lacked basic amenities like heat and air-conditioning and there was no college-ready curriculum.
  • The issues reached a critical point in July 1968, when Demetrio Rodriguez, Martin Cantu, Reynaldo Castano, and Alberta Snid formed the Edgewood District Concerned Parents Association and filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of minority students from low-income districts.
  • Though SAISD was originally named in the case, the city's school districts were dismissed as defendants in a pretrial move. SAISD joined the plaintiffs and filed a friend of the court brief (amicus curiae), according to Justia.

What they found: After a federal district court found the school funding system unconstitutional in 1971, the state of Texas appealed the case to the Supreme Court.

  • The Supreme Court ruled that Texas was not depriving students of education, nor were they being discriminated against based on wealth.

Catch up fast: The financing of Texas' public schools remains challenging and controversial as property taxes are the primary source of funding, putting an uneven stress on property-poor districts.

By the numbers: In historically affluent Alamo Heights, schools are funded entirely by local taxes.

  • In Edgewood and Harlandale ISDs, 78% and 81% of funding, respectively, comes from the state, according to IDRA data.

What they're saying: Patty Rodriguez, daughter of Demetrio Rodriguez, will be a panelist at the March 22 event. Her father would be unhappy to see the current state of education, Rodriguez tells Axios.

  • "He would probably be rolling over in his grave right now if he knew about all the things that are happening in education and how it's being politicized. I don't think he would be happy knowing 50 years later, there hasn't been an equitable solution to how we fund schools," Rodriguez says.
  • Trinity professor Enrique Alem├ín, who is organizing and moderating the event, says districts like Edgewood will always have to play "catch up" if funding remains based on property taxes.

What's next: The commemoration will take place from 4:30-7:30pm at the Edgewood ISD Performing Arts Center. Registration is free and a virtual option is available.

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