MALDEF Honors the Life and Contributions of Dr. José Ángel Cárdenas, Founder and Director Emeritus of the Intercultural Development Research Association

Dr. Cárdenas life’s work ensured Latino children received equal opportunity for access to education

LOS ANGELES, CA - Nationally esteemed professional educator, unsurpassed bilingual education expert and indomitable civil rights advocate Dr. José Ángel Cárdenas has passed away. MALDEF and the Latino community mourn the loss of this dear friend and unyielding advocate for improving bilingual education and honor Dr. Cardenas' lifelong contributions to the progress of education for Latinos and all children.

Dr. Cárdenas, a professional educator for more than 45 years, served at all levels of the education profession, from teacher to superintendent of an urban school district to chairman of the education department at an institute of higher education. Dr. Cárdenas also founded the Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA), an independent, private non-profit organization dedicated to strengthening public schools to work for all children.

Dr. Cárdenas frequently made available his full-spectrum of expertise in education and profound passion for ensuring equal educational access for Latino students, serving as an expert witness in a number of MALDEF cases, including Plyler v. Doe, the landmark case in which the Supreme Court struck down the Texas statute denying public education to undocumented immigrant students; U.S. v. Texas, MALDEF's statewide bilingual case from the 1970s-80s; Edgewood v. Kirby, which found the state's financing of education unconstitutional and ordered the legislature to make it more equitable; and Castaneda v. Pickard, a 5th Circuit case that established a three-part assessment for determining whether educational programs comply with federal law, among many others.

In 1985, MALDEF worked with Dr. Cárdenas to advocate for and strengthen the revised Lau guidelines, which improved equal opportunity protections for English Language Learner children and ensured students were not discriminated against based on their language ability. In Lau v. Nichols, the Supreme Court held that public schools cannot fail to provide special language assistance to English Language Learner students.

In total, Dr. Cárdenas testified in, or consulted on, more than 70 education-related civil rights cases.

Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF President and General Counsel, stated "Success in civil rights lawsuits requires not just lawyers, but courageous plaintiffs and experts willing to put themselves and their careers on the line in support of righteous but controversial causes. Dr. Cardenas, through his activities over the years, was one of those wise and courageous leaders who stood up for what is right."

"Dr. Cárdenas was a firm believer that every child should access the opportunities needed to achieve in school," stated David Hinojosa, MALDEF Southwest Regional Counsel. "We owe it to his legacy and to the children to continue to fight for equal funding and equal treatment of all students."

Although Dr. Cárdenas suffered several strokes in the past several years, he could still be found as recently as last month at meetings discussing the need for educational equity for all children. He is survived by his wife, Laura Doreen Tobin Cardenas; two sons, José Angel Cárdenas Jr. and Dr. Michael Cárdenas; two daughters, Christine Cárdenas Boehme and Laura Cárdenas Schwarz; and eight grandchildren.

Services to honor his life and memory of Dr. José Ángel Cárdenas will be held:
Thursday, September 22
St. Luke's Church
4603 Manitou, San Antonio
10:00 a.m.

In lieu of flowers, contributions should be made to:
José Angel Cárdenas Valued Youth Stipend Fund
5815 Callaghan Road
Suite 101
San Antonio, Texas 78228.

Founded in 1968, MALDEF is the nation's leading Latino legal civil rights organization. Often described as the "law firm of the Latino community," MALDEF promotes social change through advocacy, communications, community education and litigation in the areas of education, employment, immigrant rights and political access. For more information on MALDEF, please visit:

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Copyright 2009 MALDEF — Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund