Unequal by Design: School Finance and State Development in Texas, 1821-2016
William Angus McLeod IV

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



University of Pennsylvania

Primary Discipline

History of Education
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 long view of Texas from the 1820s to the present, I capture the ways in which 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.
About William Angus McLeod IV
Angus McLeod is a joint doctoral candidate in Education and History at the University of Pennsylvania. He is concurrently serving as the Louis Galambos National Fellow at the Hagley Museum and Library and he served as the inaugural Berkowitz Fellow at Penn GSE in 2021-2022. His research, inspired by his own experiences moving schools as a child, attempts to explain the structural inequalities across U.S. public school systems. In college Angus served as the TA for a course about education reform that also included a mentoring program for socioeconomically disadvantaged middle school students. He refocused the course to explore the mutually reinforcing links between property wealth, per-student spending, and school quality. After college Angus joined Teach For America and taught high school social studies in South Texas. He cares deeply about the craft of teaching and, upon arriving at Penn, he gained a teaching certificate from Penn?s Center for Teaching and Learning. In 2019 he participated in the National Humanities Center?s Graduate Student Summer Residency. Angus? research is focused on the history of school finance and its inherent inequities. He explains 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.

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