Who Are We


Presiding over 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.


Presiding over the 2025 Conference

Christine Kiracofe is Professor and Director of the PhD in Higher Education at Purdue University where she teaches courses in K-12 and Higher Education Law and Finance. She was named a Distinguished Research and Practice Fellow by NEFA in 2013 and has served on the Board of Trustees since 2018. She is the author/co-author of more than 60 peer-reviewed publications, co-editor of the journal Education Law into Practice, and on the editorial boards of The Journal of Education Finance, BYU Journal of Education and Law, Journal of Education Law Policy Review, and West's Education Law Reporter. 


Presiding over the 2026 Conference

Delia B. Allen is the Research Director at the Goldstream Group, where she oversees and conducts research and evaluation for educational, behavioral health, and social service programs. Prior to joining the Goldstream Group, she served as a visiting professor in the Department of Educational & Organizational Leadership Development at Clemson University. Dr. Allen was the inaugural recipient of the NEFA Fowler Educational Finance Policy Research Fellow Award (2018-2019). 


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.




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. 


Paul Bruno is an Assistant Professor of Education Policy, Organization, and Leadership at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Paul's research focuses on school finance and personnel administration in school districts, and on how those issues intersect. His work has been published in leading journals focused on those topics, including the Journal of Education Finance, Review of Public Personnel Administration, and Educational Administration Quarterly. This work has been recognized by the National Education Finance Academy, with both an Article of the Year award and a Distinguished Research and Practice Fellow award. Paul teaches graduate courses in school finance, school district human resource management, policy analysis, and quantitative methods. He previously taught middle school science.

Karen J. DeAngelis is an associate professor of Educational Leadership in the Warner School of Education and Human Development at the University of Rochester, where she teaches graduate-level courses in education policy, quantitative research methods, and decision making. Between 2014 and 2020, she also served as department chair and associate dean for academic programs. Her research primarily focuses on the utilization and distribution of K-12 educational resources, particularly human resources including teachers, administrators, and support personnel. She serves on the review boards for the Journal of Education Finance and Education and Urban Society. She also served two terms as an Editorial Advisory Board Member for ASBO International, as secretary for AERA’s Fiscal Issues, Policy and Education Finance Special Interest Group, and as a member of NEFA’s ad hoc State of the States publication committee. She was named a Distinguished Fellow of NEFA in 2021.

Arvin Johnson is the Interim Director of the School of Instructional Technology and Innovation and an Associate Professor of Educational Leadership in the Bagwell College of Education at Kennesaw State University. He has held various leadership positions in higher education and K-12. His K-12 experiences range from elementary to high school, including serving as a special education teacher, assistant principal, and principal. In higher education, his experiences include executive director, director, coordinator, and interim school director. Dr. Johnson's research interests include principal professional learning and preparation, instructional technology, finance, and curriculum and instruction.


Chelsea E. Haines is is the Associate Director for Broader Impacts at the Center for Educational Networks and Impacts (CENI) within the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology (ICAT) at Virginia Tech. She is also an affiliate faculty with the Department of Engineering Education and affiliate assistant professor of practice in the School of Education. Her research interests explore the intersections of a) P-12 and higher education policy and finance, b) academic labor, c) graduate education, and d) assessment of student learning. By critically examining these areas, she aims to illuminate adverse, systemic impacts of policies and practices on historically marginalized populations at the organizational level.

Carlee Simon is a longstanding founding member of the National Education Finance Academy. She has successfully built and evaluated initiatives and programs to drive positive change in education and fiscal responsibility. As the former Superintendent of Schools for the School Board of Alachua County, Florida, she provided transformative leadership to a large district with 30,000 students and a budget exceeding $500 million. Carlee brings valuable firsthand experience in responding to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and successfully navigating the allocation and utilization of ESSER (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief) federal funding within her school district. She deeply understands financial challenges and collaborative initiatives among governmental groups, especially during times of crisis. Carlee's experience as the Executive Director of the National Education Finance Academy and her involvement in professional organizations demonstrates her expertise and dedication to the field of education finance and policy.  Carlee's leadership, policy development, and strategic planning skills will support the organization's mission to enhance education finance practices and ensure equitable funding for all students. Carlee currently serves as the interim dean at the University of Alaska Southeast, overseeing academic, programmatic, managerial, and fiscal responsibilities for the School of Education.

Toni Templeton is a Senior Research Scientist at the University of Houston Education Research Center. Her research largely focuses on examining and finding solutions for inequities that exist within the education sector and she is particularly interested in expanding the application of critical frameworks in quantitative research. Beginning her career as a teacher and then moving into public education policy, Toni's research often involves examining policy effects- both intended and unintended. A scientist at heart, the development of parsimonious and unconventional quantitative approaches to understand observed outcomes undergird her research agenda.