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College of Education > Faculty and Staff Directory > Dr. Matthew Gardner Kelly

Dr. Matthew Gardner Kelly

Dr. Matthew Gardner Kelly
Phone: 814-863-3773
Office Address:
204F Rackley Building
University Park, PA 16802
Campus: University Park


Assistant Professor of Education


Education Policy Studies


Educational Leadership


Matthew Gardner Kelly (he/him/his) is an assistant professor in the Educational Leadership Program. He received his M.A. (history) and Ph.D. (history of education and educational policy) from Stanford University, where he was also the Yu-Ly Interdisciplinary Graduate Fellow from 2015-2018.

A historian of education and policy analyst, Kelly examines the intersections of education funding policies and inequities of race, ethnicity, income, and residence. With support from the National Academy of Education and Spencer Foundation, Kelly is currently finishing his first book, tentatively titled Dividing the Public: School Finance and the (Re)Creation of Structural Inequality. The book uses the history of the district property tax, and its alternatives, to trace the role of education finance policies in expanding and entrenching structural inequalities in education in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Kelly’s research has received awards from Division F of the American Educational Research Association and the History of Education Society. He was named a distinguished research and practice fellow by the National Education Finance Academy in 2021. His research has appeared in various academic journals, including AERA Open, Educational Researcher, History of Education Quarterly, and Teachers College Record. His writing has also appeared in popular media outlets, including SlateThe Philadelphia Inquirer, and San Francisco Chronicle/SFGate. He is currently a Senior Associate Editor and Book Review Co-Editor for the American Journal of Education, an officer for AERA’s Division F, and a member of the Board of Trustees and Board of Advisors for the National Education Finance Academy. 

Kelly is an expert in Pennsylvania education funding policies. He was a 2018-19 Pennsylvania Education Policy Fellow through the Institute for Educational Leadership, has advised state legislators on school funding formulas, and is an expert witness in an ongoing constitutional challenge to Pennsylvania’s school funding system. He teaches courses in school finance and educational leadership. He advises D.Ed. and Ph.D. students interested in the history of education, school finance, or long-term trends in educational policy in the United States.

Areas of Expertise

Educational Studies

History of Ed

Leadership Preparation

Educational Leadership
Principal Prep
Superintendent Prep


Equity and Diversity

Methodological Research

Historical research
Policy Analysis

Organizational Management

Management & Leadership

Social Issues

Education Policy

Courses Taught

EDLDR 480, Introduction to Educational Leadership

EDLDR 540, Technology Applications in Educational Leadership 

EDLDR 573, Public School Finance

EDLDR 873, Money and Schools: Perspectives, Finance Policies, and Leadership

EDLDR 841, Data Informed Leadership

Education History

Ph.D. (Educational Policy and History of Education), Stanford University; M.A. (History), Stanford University; B.A. (History), Bard College

Representative Publications

Kelly, M.G. (2020).‘Theoretically all children are equal. Practically this can never be so’: The history of the district property tax in California and the choice of inequality. Teachers College Record, 122 (2).

Kelly, M.G. (2019). A map is more than just a graph: Geospatial educational research and the importance of historical context. AERA Open, 5(1), 1-14. 

Kelly, M.G. (2018). The deep and tangled roots of real estate markets, the state, and public education. Journal of Educational Administration and History, 50(3), 191-203. 

Kelly, M.G. (2016). Schoolmaster’s empire: Race, conquest, and the centralization of common schooling in California. History of Education Quarterly, 56(3), 445-472. 

  • Awarded the History of Education Society Prize for best refereed article published in previous two years

Kelly, M.G. (2014). The mythology of schooling: The historiography of American and European education in comparative perspective. Paedagogica Historica: International Journal of the History of Education, 50(6), 756-773.