Who Are We


Presiding the 2021 Conference
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 Univeristy of Virginia.


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.


Nicola A. Alexander is Professor in the Education Policy and Leadership program in the Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development at the University of Minnesota. She is particularly interested in notions of fairness, including issues of adequacy, equity, and productivity as they relate to PK-12 education. She has extensive research and teaching experience in policy analysis and in the economics and fiscal aspects of elementary and secondary education, including courses in education policy analysis, politics of education, comparative budgeting and strategic financial management. Dr. Alexander has published in books, monographs, and journals, including American Educational Research Journal, Educational Policy, Journal of School Business Management, and Journal of Education Finance. She is author of Policy Analysis for Educational Leaders: A Step by Step Approach with Pearson Publishers. She earned a PhD in Public Administration with a focus on public finance from the University at Albany.


Eric Houck is an Associate Professor of Leadership and Policy in the School of Education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  He received his PhD from Vanderbilt University in 2006, a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1999 and a bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1992.  His current research focuses on the equitable and efficient allocation of resources through school finance mechanisms, including how these mechanisms address funding across student, district and sector characteristics. He is a coauthor of one of the leading school finance textbooks on the market and his research has appeared in publications such as the Journal of Education Finance, the Peabody Journal of Education, Education and Urban Society, and Leadership and Policy in Schools.  A former public school teacher and central office administrator, Eric utilizes political, educational and administrative frameworks to understand how context and politics drive seemingly irrational policy decisions.  Among other honors and accolades, Eric was recognized as a Distinguished Research and Practice Fellow by the NEFA in 2012 and has served as an expert and consultant at the local, state, and national levels.    

Lenford C. Sutton Sr. is Professor and Chair of the Department of Educational Administration and Foundations at Illinois State University, where he has held an academic appointment for the last four years. Dr. Sutton’s research interests are focused on issues related to education funding, the privatization of public schools, the fiscal effects of educational reform, school desegregation, and education finance litigation. The results of his research have been published in a variety of journals, including Educational Considerations, International Journal of Education Reform and the Journal of Education Finance. He was selected as a Distinguished Research & Practice Fellow in 2014 by the National Education Finance Academy, serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Education Finance, and the Board of Directors of the Education Law Association.

Philip Westbrook served as a public school educator for 17 years including experience as an elementary teacher, assistant principal, principal, and assistant superintendent.  He is currently Professor of Practice at The University of Alabama where he has taught in the educational leadership program for the past 11 years.  He teaches courses in education finance, education law, supervision, and curriculum.  He has also served as the Director of the Blackburn Institute, a leadership development organization on the campus of The University of Alabama, and taught public policy.  Philip earned a B.S. from Birmingham-Southern College, a MA from The University of Alabama at Birmingham, and an Ed.D. from Vanderbilt University.


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 an Associate 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 40 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. She is currently on the Board of Directors of the Education Law Association. With Spencer Weiler, she co-authors the Supreme Court update each month for the Education Law Association’s School Law Reporter and co-coordinates the State of the States for NEFA.  Christine is the recipient of the 2013 Distinguished Research and Practice Fellow.

Henry Tran is an Assistant Professor at the University of South Carolina’s Department of Educational Leadership and Policies. He studies issues related to education human resources (HR) and finance and has published numerous articles on the topics. He holds two national HR certifications, serves on the Board of Advisors for the National Education Finance Academy and is editor of the Journal of Education Human Resources. Dr. Tran has published in Educational Management Administration & Leadership, Leadership & Policy in Schools, Journal of Public School Relations, Journal of Student Financial Aid, Journal of Education Finance, Education Leadership Review, Management in Education, Journal of Educational Policy, Planning and Administration, and The Journal of Academic Administration in Higher Education. He is a member of the Journal of Education Finance Editorial Advisory Board. Henry was awarded the 2017 Distinguished Research and Practice Fellow.


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 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 twelfth-year writing for the Yearbook of Education Law, currently serves as editorial board member for the Journal of Education Law & Policy Review, and 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.