News Archive – 2016

24% of children in Travis County lack consistent access to enough food for a healthy diet, according the 2016 State of Texas Children Report released last month. Hungry children struggle to focus in school, and are more likely to develop social and behavioral issues.

The report highlights the historical and current policies that maintain financial, educational, and health disparities for children across ethnic, racial, and gender lines. Closing the gap will require strong, equity-focused policies at the local level. Some policy recommendations include:

  • Collect more data broken down by race and ethnicity
  • The Workforce Solutions Capital Area Workforce Board should ensure that its first ever community-wide master plan for workforce development analyzes all data by race and ethnicity. The Board should include strategies in the plan to help close gaps by race and ethnicity in employment, wages and educational attainment.
  • Preserve and increase access to affordable health insurance for underserved families and women of reproductive age.
  • Expand access to school-based child nutrition programs

Read the full report here.


Video & Materials Available: Locked Out! Criminal History as a Barrier to Housing Access

A video recording of the event Locked Out! Criminal History as a Barrier to Housing Access is now available for you to view online. Watch the video to hear from Sara Pratt, Bruce Reilly, Fred Fuchs, Greg Casar, David Mintz, and Helen Gaebler on the innovative work going on in New Orleans and elsewhere to reduce barriers and increase housing access for individuals with criminal histories. The video can be found here.

Sara Pratt, Counsel at Relman, Dane & Colfax in Washington D.C., opened the discussion with a presentation on policy recommendations for criminal background and tenant screenings. View the powerpoint here.

Registration open for “Locked Out! Criminal History as a Barrier to Housing Access”

Friday, October 28 2016
12:00 – 2:00 pm
Francis Auditorium
The University of Texas School of Law
Lunch provided
The event is free but an RSVP is required

The second installment of the Opportunity Forum’s 2016-17 Lunch Series, Hot Topics in Access to Opportunity, focuses on criminal history as a barrier to housing access. Nearly one in three U.S. adults holds a criminal record. Accessing safe and affordable housing is an urgent need for many of these individuals, but a criminal background presents immense barriers to securing housing in the Austin region. Join us on October 28th to learn about innovative work going on in New Orleans and elsewhere to reduce these barriers and to increase housing access for individuals with criminal histories. We will also learn about new federal fair housing guidance regarding landlords’ use of criminal records to screen tenants.


Sara Pratt | Counsel
Relman, Dane & Colfax
Washington D.C.


Greg Casar | Council Member
Austin City Council

Fred Fuchs | Attorney & Housing Group Coordinator
Texas RioGrande Legal Aid

David Mintz | Vice President of Government Affairs
Texas Apartment Association

Bruce Reilly | Deputy Director
Voice of the Experienced (VOTE)
New Orleans, LA


Helen Gaebler | Senior Research Attorney
William Wayne Justice Center for Public Interest Law
The University of Texas at Austin

The William Wayne Justice Center for Public Interest Law
The Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs
The Institute for Urban Policy Research & Analysis
The Longhorn Center for Community Engagement
The Graduate Program in Community & Regional Planning
Austin/Travis County Reentry Roundtable




Registration open for Race, Democracy, and the 2016 Election

Race, Democracy, and the 2016 Election

Wednesday, October 26
12:15pm – 1:45pm
Bass Lecture Hall
The Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs
Light Refreshments will be served

The first installment of the Opportunity Forum 2016-2017 lunch series, Hot Topics in Access to Opportunity, kicks off this month with a panel discussion on Race, Democracy, and the 2016 Election, co-hosted with the Center for the Study of Race & Democracy at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs.

Join us on Wednesday, October 26 from 12:15 – 1:45 p.m. in the Bass Lecture Hall at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs for a panel discussion featuring academics and historians, including:

Edmund Gordon | Associate Professor and Chair
Department of African and African Diaspora Studies

Sherri Greenberg | Clinical Professor
The Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs

Jeremi Suri | Chair
Leadership in Global Affairs

Mark Updegrove | Director
Lyndon B. Johnson Library and Museum

More information: The event is free but an RSVP is required. Light refreshments will be served.

Closing the Racial Wealth Gap Materials

The presentation materials from our Closing the Racial Wealth Gap are now available on our publications page, under the heading “Wealth.”

Hear Mechele Dickerson’s presentation on the racial wealth gap below:


Faculty Affiliates Research Regional Educational Equity Policies

Jennifer Jellison Holme, Associate Professor of Educational Policy and Planning in the Department of Educational Administration, has been studying the relationship between racial and economic segregation and educational inequality. In a recent article, Dr. Holme and Dr. Kara Finnigan outline regional educational equity policies that reduce economic and racial isolation, help promote greater equitybetween school districts, and improve academic achievement for all students across metropolitan areas. The article highlights, in particular, the need for local and regional policies that combine choice and place-based investment in high poverty schools. Dr. Holme and Dr. Finnigan say that state and federal action is also needed to support adoption of these policies, through measures such as targeted funding and reforms to accountability systems.

Click here to read the full report.

Panel to Feature Experts on Wealth Inequality

The fourth and final program of the Opportunity Forum’s 2015-16 Lunch Series on Uniting Our Divided City, Closing the Racial Wealth Gap, focuses on our community’s persistent racial wealth divides. Wealth is critical for families to achieve financial stability and build a better life. But the ability to build wealth in our society is highly racialized, leading to a racial wealth gap that is now at historic levels. Today, Black and Latino households currently have 80% less wealth than white households, with far reaching consequences. What does this mean for Texas families and what is being done to address the ever-growing inequality?

The Opportunity Forum is proud to feature Mechele Dickerson as the event speaker. Dickerson is a professor of bankruptcy law and practice in the University of Texas School of Law and an Opportunity Forum Faculty Affiliate. Her research focuses on income and wealth inequality, student loans, and financial challenges facing the middle class. Dickerson has testified before a congressional subcommittee on the way housing unaffordability is devestating middle-income Americans.

We are also pleased to welcome Ann Baddour, Don Baylor, and Roy C. Lopez as panelists for the event.

Baddour is the director of the Fair Financial Services Project at Texas Appleseed, a nonprofit organization serving underrepresented Texans. In this role, Baddour works to bring low-income and immigrant consumers into the financial mainstream.

Baylor, Senior Associate at the Urban Institute, is currently working on several projects, including Cities of Learning, a multicity, youth digital-badging initiative; an assessment of JPMorgan Chase Foundation’s investments in Detroit and financial capability; and an effort to create a strategic framework for state and local economic development policy in partnership with the Laura and John Arnold Foundation.

In his position as Community Development Officer, Lopez is leading the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas initiative to promote economic growth and financial stability for low- and moderate-income communities and individuals.

UT Opportunity Forum founder Heather K. Way will be moderating the panel discussion. Way is a clinical professor and director of the Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic in the University of Texas School of Law. Way’s research focuses on the analysis and development of public policies that promote the creation of equitable and inclusive communities.

Join the Opportunity Forum on Friday, April 22 in the Bass Lecture Hall (The Lyndon B. School of Public Affairs) from 12:00 – 2:00 pm to hear from UT faculty and policy makers on this pressing issue. Seats are filling up fast, register to attend here.

Questions can be directed to



Affiliate Spotlight: Terrance Green

The Affiliate Spotlight showcases an exemplary Opportunity Forum Faculty Affiliate and his/her current research in the Opportunity Forum E-Newsletter. Our March Affiliate Spotlight is Dr. Terrance Green, Assistant Professor in the College of Education.

Dr Terrance Green

Terrance Green became an Opportunity Forum Affiliate in 2015. His research investigates the ways that urban policy can be leveraged to improve educational outcomes and community development in low-income neighborhoods of color. Dr. Green received his Ph.D. in Educational Leadership & Policy Analysis from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

One of his current projects, along with UT Ph.D. students Emily Germain and Joanna D. Sánchez, investigates the geography of educational opportunity in Austin. The project assesses the spatial distribution of “high-quality educational opportunity” in the Austin Independent School District (AISD), and how these spatial patterns and district policies influence “opportunity hoarding” within the district.

Their research findings include:

  • More elementary schools are deemed high-quality compared to middle and high schools
  • High-quality schools are disproportionately distributed west of I-35 and are typically found in low-poverty zones
  • Attendance zones with the largest percent of African-American students are not zoned for any “high-quality” high schools

Based on these findings, Dr. Green, Ms. Germain, and Ms. Sánchez have identified potential courses of action that district leaders and policymakers could take to expand high-quality educational opportunities in AISD. To find out their proposed solutions, read the executive summary.

Presentation by Garrett Groves: Racial and Ethnic Divides in Education

The Speaker Series “Uniting Our Divided City” continued this spring with a forum on racial and ethnic divides in education.  Panelists included Ted Gordon, Garrett Groves, Angela Valenzuela, and Allen Weeks, and was moderated by Opportunity Forum Affiliates Terrance Green and Jennifer Holme. Please see below Garrett Groves’ presentation data on racial and ethnic disparities in college preparedness. Please click here to view a PDF of the presentation.

Please click here to view a PDF of the presentation.

Invisible in Austin

Join us Thursday, February 4 from 2:00 – 3:30 pm in the Gordon White Building room 2.206 for Invisible in Austin, a book talk with the editors and contributors. Registration required.

Austin is renowned as a fast-growing city and a cool place to live. But, the growing gap between rich and poor is reconfiguring its cityscape. In Invisible in Austin, Javier Auyero and graduate students explore the lives of those working at the bottom of the social order. Recounting their life stories with empathy and sociological insight, the authors show us how these lives are driven by a complex mix of individual and social forces.


Javier Auyero | Editor
Professor, Department of Sociology
The University of Texas at Austin

Pamela Neumann | Contributor
Doctoral Candidate, Department of Sociology
The University of Texas at Austin

Katherine Sobering | Contributor
Doctoral Candidate, Department of Sociology
The University of Texas at Austin

Book Talk CoSponsors:

The William Wayne Justice Center for Public Interest Law
The Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs
The Institute for Urban Policy Research & Analysis