For Spencer Weiler, nothing is more important to his professional life than equity in education. That’s why Weiler, a professor in the Education Leadership and Foundations Department at the BYU McKay School of Education, has been a member of the National Education Finance Academy (NEFA) since its inception in 2009, and why he will soon begin serving as the academy’s president.
Over the past decade, NEFA’s main goal has been to promote scholarly inquiry and to inform policy and practice in the field of education finance. One way the organization accomplishes this goal is by advocating for equity to ensure all children have access to education opportunities. As the premier education finance association, and with members across the nation who are scholars, professors, students, policy makers, and practitioners specializing in the K–12 field, NEFA is in a unique position to lead research and change finance policy in education for the better. This focus on equity is what first drew Weiler to NEFA.
“The organization has a very strong commitment to equity and ensuring that all children—not just a certain segment of children—have access to the educational opportunities that they need to reach their full potential,” he said.
In 2019, Weiler was nominated by the NEFA board and elected to the position of vice president. NEFA’s elected officials serve for four years, rotating positions each year: vice president, president-elect, president, and past president. Over the next year, Weiler will act as president-elect, serving on the executive board heading the 2021 NEFA annual conference. At the conclusion of the conference, Weiler will begin his term as president.
When the COVID-19 outbreak made it impossible for NEFA to meet in person for their 2020 conference, Weiler was responsible for modifying the conference into an online format. He wanted the conference to still provide professionals with opportunities to network and collaborate. Rather than live streaming the conference, he used Zoom and shifted the focus from traditional lectures to roundtable discussions to facilitate conversations between members and build a sense of community. More than 90 professionals attended the conference. “Going into it, I was worried there would be technological issues at the last minute, but the conference worked seamlessly. We did a really good job of empowering lots of people.”
The 2020 conference focused on civil rights in the 21st century and how to fight for equity through education finance. The conference was originally to be hosted in Birmingham, Alabama, a city known for its ties to the civil rights movement. At the conference, members exchanged research, experiences, and policy proposals regarding education finance and discussed topics such as income inequality, school discipline and the disproportionate treatment of minorities, unequal school facilities, access to quality education, school-to-prison pipelines, and the cost of education.
Approaching his eleventh year of membership, Weiler sees NEFA as more than a professional organization. “In many ways, it's a family of like-minded colleagues. The conversations that we have at our conferences are incredibly stimulating and thought provoking.”
When asked about NEFA’s most important responsibility, Weiler answered without hesitation: “I’m going to obviously bring it back to equity and ensuring that systemic barriers are identified and addressed so that all students in K–12 and higher ed are afforded the opportunities necessary to reach their full potential.”
Want to hear more about EdLF faculty in leadership positions? Read how Bryan Bowles is making a difference as part of the Utah State Charter School Board.
Writer: Emma Smith
Contact: Cynthia Glad 801-422-1922