Who Are We


Presiding the 2022 Conference
Spencer C. Weiler is Associate Professor of Educational Leadership in the McKay School of Education at Brigham Young University. Spence primarily teaches school finance and school law courses and his current research interests include examining the impact of school finance litigation on funding for public education, the role of school facilities in school finance litigation, and the legal implications of arming school district employees as a way of increasing school safety. He has over 40 publications to his credit, including three co-authored books, seven book chapters, and 31 peer-reviewed studies that have been published in the following journals: Journal of Education Finance, West’s Education Law Reporter, Journal of Law, Business, and Ethics, Equity & Excellence in Education, Journal of School Leadership, Planning and Change, NASSP Bulletin, and Brigham Young University Education and Law Journal. Spence currently serves on the Education Law Association board of directors. Spence has served the NEFA community in a number of ways, including serving as an original board member (from 2016-2018) and co-chairing the State of the States since its inception in 2015.


Presiding the 2023 Conference
William E. Thro is General Counsel of the University of Kentucky, former Solicitor General of Virginia, and an education law scholar. He is the recipient of Stetson University’s Kaplin Award for Higher Education Law & Policy Scholarship and the Education Law Association’s McGhehey Award. He is a Fellow of the National Association of College & University Attorneys and a Distinguished Research Fellow of the National Education Finance Academy. He served as President of the Education Law Association, Chair of the Virginia Bar Association’s Appellate Practice Section, and as a member of the NCAA General Counsel Advisory Board and United Educators Legal Advisory Board.


Presiding the 2024 Conference
Eric A. Houck is an Associate Professor of Leadership and Policy in the School of Education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. A noted authority on school finance, Eric studies the distributional inequities created by school finance mechanisms. He also studies the resource allocation implications of school resegregation. He is a Distinguished Research and Practice Fellow of the National Education Finance Academy, where he currently serves on the Board of Trustees.


Rob Knoeppel serves as Professor and Dean of the William & Mary School of Education. His research interests include the intersection of school finance and education accountability policy. Dr. Knoeppel has authored over 100 refereed journal publications, book chapters, technical reports and conference papers in the field of education finance, education reform, and educational leadership. His work has been regularly published in the Journal of Education Finance and Educational Considerations, two of the top-tiered journals in the field of education finance. Dr. Knoeppel served as a member of the Board of Trustees of the National Education Finance Academy where he was awarded the Scholarly Paper of the Year Award for the three consecutive years. Previously, he was elected chair of the Fiscal Issues, Policy and Education Finance Special Interest Group of the American Educational Research Association. Dr. Knoeppel has previously held an academic appointment at the University of Kentucky. Clemson University, and the University of South Florida. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a Masters of Education and Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Virginia.


Iris BenDavid-Hadar is a faculty member in the School of Education, Bar-Ilan University, Israel. Dr. BenDavid-Hadar’s research foci are Education Finance Policy, and Economics of Education. She is the founder and previous chair of the Economics and Finance of Education SIG in the Comparative International Education Society (CIES), and a Member of the Board of the International Higher Education in Belt and Road Countries (IHE-B&R) at the Beijing Institute of Technology (BIT), China. Her papers have been published in books and journals such as International Journal of Educational Development, Education Economics, and the Journal of Education Finance. Her book Education Finance, Equality, and Equity was recently published by Springer.  Iris was recognized as a 2014 Distinguished Research and Practice Fellow.

Christine Rienstra Kiracofe is a Professor at Purdue University in Educational Leadership, Policy Studies, and Director of the Ph.D. in Higher Education. She teaches courses in education law, finance, and policy and her research interests lie at the intersection of how education law and finance impact both K-12 and post-secondary educational institutions. She is the author or co-author of more than 50 scholarly publications, including two books. Christine is the co-editor of the journal Education Law Into Practice, and serves on the editorial boards of West’s Education Law Reporter, the Journal of Education Finance, and the Journal of Education Law & Policy Review. Christine is the recipient of the 2013 Distinguished Research and Practice Fellow.

Henry Tran is an Associate Professor at the University of South Carolina’s Department of Educational Leadership and Policies and director of the Talent Centered Education Leadership Initiative (TCELI). He researches issues related to education human resources (HR) and finance. In addition, he holds two national HR certifications, serves on NEFA’s Board of Advisors/Board of Trustees, is the chair of NEFA’s State of States program, and is the founding editor of the Journal of Education Human Resources. Dr. Tran’s work can be found in numerous journals including Educational Management Administration & LeadershipLeadership & Policy in SchoolsNASSP Bulletin, Journal of Education Administration, Journal of Cases in Education Leadership, Journal of Public School RelationsJournal of School Leadership, Journal of Student Financial Aid, and the Journal of Education Finance, just to name a few. He is the author of the text, Taking the Mystery out of South Carolina School Finance. In 2017, he was awarded the 2017 Distinguished Research and Practice Fellow by NEFA.


Delia B. Allen is affiliated with the Richard W. Riley Institute at Furman University, where she serves as a Research Associate in the Center for Education Policy and Leadership. She is also a co-Investigator for the Brady Education Foundation’s Montessori initiative. In addition, Delia is a visiting faculty member at Clemson University where she teaches school finance. She currently serves on the NEFA membership committee and was the inaugural recipient of the NEFA Fowler Education Finance Policy Research Fellow award (2018-19). As a member of the NEFA Board of Trustees, Delia will focus on strategies to strengthen the engagement and bridge the communication gap between finance scholars and policymakers.

Amy Dagley is an Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership and coordinator of the doctoral program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her research examines the impacts of law, finance, policy, and ethics on PK-12 and higher education institutions. She teaches graduate courses primarily in school law, finance, ethics, and politics. Amy is in her thirteenth-year writing for the Yearbook of Education Law, currently serves as editorial board member for the Journal of Education Law & Policy Review, and previously served six years on the board of directors for the Journal of International Students. She earned a Ph.D. from the University of Alabama, and master’s and bachelor’s degrees from the University of Alaska Southeast.

Davíd G. Martínez is an Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership and Policies at the University of South Carolina. Davíd’s research examines the impact of education finance policy on fiscal capacity in traditionally marginalized communities through a critical justice centered lens. Previously Davíd was an administrator and middle/high school educator in Illinois. Davíd is a Richland County First-Steps board member, and faculty affiliate with Project MALES (UT-Austin), Center on Migration Policy and Society, South Eastern Immigration Studies Association, and La Alianza Hispana of South Carolina. Finally, Davíd was recently elected as the treasurer of the Bilingual Education Research SIG of AERA.


David Buckman is an Associate Professor of Educational Leadership and Interim Department Chair of Kennesaw State University’s Department of Inclusive Education. He completed his Doctor of Philosophy degree in the Educational Leadership and Policies Department at the University of South Carolina and his research spans both K-12 and Higher Education spectrums in school finance and human resources. Dr. Buckman has been an active member of the National Education Finance Academy since 2015 and has aided in recruiting new members for the organization, served on the conference planning committee, and served as co-chair of the state of the states committee.     

Sharda Jackson Smith currently serves as Interim Assistant Dean and Assistant Professor for the School of Education, Human Performance, and Health at the University of South Carolina Upstate. As a first-generation college student and three-time University of Florida graduate, Jackson Smith understands the importance of a quality educational experience. With the goal of creating a pathway to equitable opportunity for students, her post-secondary teaching experience caters to P-12 pre-service and practicing teachers. Jackson Smith is involved in professional and community initiatives that focus on state and federal public education policy, disproportionate funding, and teacher advocacy.

Matthew Kelly is an Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership at Pennsylvania State University, where he teaches courses in educational leadership and school finance. Before graduate school, he was a middle school math and special education teacher in New York City. His research examines long-term trends in state education funding policies. His current work is particularly focused on funding policies in Pennsylvania, where he is also an expert witness for the plaintiffs in the state’s ongoing school finance case. His writing has received awards from the History of Education Society and Division F of the American Educational Research Association, and he is a senior associate editor and book review co-editor for the American Journal of Education. Matthew was recognized as a 2021 Distinguished Research and Practice Fellow.