News, policy discussions, and major events happening in or related to Texas, told from an Austin perspective

Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT

From Texas Standard:

Texas often touts its record of economic growth, low unemployment rates and its success as a magnet for workers, but who's thinking about the kids in tow and how well-fed or educated they are? Many people are surprised to find that about one in five kids in Texas lives in poverty.

Today, the Center for Public Policy Priorities, a group that advocates for low- to mid-income families and children, is releasing its 2018 State of Texas Children report. The report sheds quite a bit of light on why Texas ranks in the bottom-10 states for child well-being, as one recent survey discovered. So where's the data and how can Texas improve?

Kristie Tingle, a research analyst for the CPPP, says the reason the state still has 20 percent of children living in poverty is that families don’t have the economic security they need.

Bob Jagendorf/Flickr

From Texas Standard:

It's something you don't hear often in the news: President Donald Trump is endorsing a measure that has the support of Democrats and Republicans in Congress. This rare occasion for bipartisanship represents what some consider the biggest overhaul to the nation's criminal justice system in recent memory.

Shaila Dewaun is national criminal justice editor for The New York Times. She says the bill would help people leaving prison with reentry into the outside world, including providing money for education and treatment programs.

Logo courtesy of Amarillo Professional Baseball

From Texas Standard:

The announcement that minor league baseball was on its way to Amarillo came nearly a year and a half ago. Since then, one question above all others has lingered in the Panhandle city: what would the new club be called? At long last, there's an answer, though it hasn’t come without controversy.

Texas A&M Health Science Center/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)

From Texas Standard:

Texas' population is growing rapidly, especially in its cities. But much of Texas is rural, and as longtime listeners know, we try to explore what it means to live those parts of the Lone Star State. When it comes to health care, rural Texans are increasingly going without: Rural hospitals, for example, have been closing, and when it comes to mental health, psychiatrists are few and far between.

Photo courtesy of The Refuge

From Texas Standard:

For a long time, people rescued from a human trafficking situation in Texas were not assured of a place to stay. The state only had 24 beds available to care for these survivors – 24 beds in a state where, according to a 2016 study by the University of Texas, some 79,000 children were identified as victims of sex trafficking. With such limited options, survivors were sometimes locked up by law enforcement as a way to protect them from their pimps. This, of course, added to victims' trauma.

As of this summer, the number of beds available in Texas has tripled, as a new facility called The Refuge opened in Central Texas.

Alvaro Céspedes/Texas Standard

From Texas Standard:

In ecological terms, South Texas is known as brush country – it’s home to lots of thorny shrubs, trees and palms. Its humid climate makes it similar to parts of Northern Mexico, and it’s only in these two places where you can find one member of the cacti family which has been controversial, to say the least: peyote – genus Lophophora – is a small cactus native to the Rio Grande Valley. It contains a psychoactive substance known as mescaline, and it’s been used as a religious sacrament in ceremonies by native cultures for centuries. But selling it is barred in every state except for the one where it grows: Texas.

World Bank Photo Collection/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

A federal appeals court last week affirmed that the state of Texas owes more than $30 million to the federal government after it cut funding for special education in 2012. Now, disability rights advocates say they've found documents that could put the state on the hook for over $40 million more.

Institut Douglas/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

Alzheimer's disease is the most common type of dementia, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says as many as 5 million Americans were living with it in 2014. Scientists have conducted a lot of research on the disease, but there's still no simple explanation for it. But James Truchard wants to change that.

Truchard is a former president and CEO of the multibillion-dollar Austin-based tech company National Instruments. He recently gave $5 million to the University of Texas at San Antonio College of Sciences for the new Oskar Fischer Project; the money will be divvied among the scientists who can sufficiently explain what causes Alzheimer's.

Joy Diaz/Texas Standard

From Texas Standard:

Today, more Texans live in urban areas than ever before. In fact, 8 in 10 of us do. That’s an overwhelming majority.

Photo courtesy of the Cockrell School of Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin.

From Texas Standard:

You've heard of probiotics. They're the live microorganisms that live in your gut and in foods such as yogurt and dietary supplements. In recent years, they've been touted as beneficial to health, especially to ease digestive disorders. But it turns out probiotics – these so-called "good bacteria" – may not actually be good for all people in all cases. As part of our "Spotlight on Health" project, we're highlighting this new finding published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Gabriel C. Pérez (O'Rourke); Julia Reihs (Cruz) / KUT

This midterm, the U.S. Senate race in Texas captivated the entire country and was touted as a bellwether for Democrats' future in the deep-red state. On election night, KUT journalists Julia Reihs and Gabriel C. Pérez joined Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Beto O'Rourke, respectively, as they watched the results come in.

Here's what they saw:

The US Capitol building
Misha Popovikj/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

One hundred and ninety-six years of experience is the amount of time nine outgoing members of Congress from Texas have compiled in the U.S. House of Representatives. The turnover comes thanks to six retirements, two upsets and one failed Senate bid. According to Mark Strand, president of the Congressional Institute, that’s an unusually high amount of institutional knowledge going out the door.

Gabriel C. Pérez (O'Rourke); Julia Reihs (Cruz) / KUT

KUT's Ashley Lopez discusses incumbent GOP Sen. Ted Cruz's win over Democratic challenger Beto O'Rourke with Morning Edition's Noel King.

Julian Aguilar / The Texas Tribune

EL PASO — The press release went out Monday, the reporters showed up Tuesday morning, then the U.S. Border Patrol abruptly canceled its Election Day "crowd control exercise" without immediately stating a reason.

Michael Marks/Texas Standard

From Texas Standard:

Many Texans are still feeling the effects of heavy rains this fall. In the Hill Country, places like Kingsland and Marble Falls are picking up the pieces after the Llano River breached its banks. The city of Austin is in the midst of a full-scale review into why its water treatment system was overwhelmed for nearly a week. And then there’s Sonora, a town of about 2,700 people an hour south of San Angelo which was hit by a catastrophic flood just over a month ago.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

In Central Texas, there are three state House seats that are uncontested by the GOP:  Democratic incumbents Donna Howard (HD 48), Celia Israel (HD 50) and Eddie Rodriguez (

Liam James / NPR

These are the congressional races we're watching in Central Texas.

District 10 | District 17 | District 21 | District 25 | District 27 | District 31 | District 35

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

From Texas Standard:

Heading into Election Day, there’s a lot on the minds of Texas’ some 1.1 million current and retired public educators. As part of our Texas Decides series, we checked in with Texas teachers and education advocates about some of their concerns as they go out to vote.

Seal of the Texas Railroad Commission
Todd Wiseman/Texas Tribune

From Texas Standard:

From KTZZ and KUT:

Tuesday is midterm Election Day. Of course you’ve heard about the heated Texas Senate race, and some of the state’s more competitive congressional districts, the governor’s race. But there are also several statewide races on the ballot this year that aren’t getting much attention – like railroad commissioner. Current commission chairman, Republican Christi Craddick, is running for a second term against Democrat Roman McAllen and Libertarian Mike Wright.

For residents of the Rio Grande Valley, immigration is more than an election issue. It doesn't ebb and flow with the tides of politics; it is embedded in the lives of people who live there.

Lynda Gonzalez for KUT

One year ago, a gunman burst into the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs. It's been a year of recovery and learning to live without the two dozen people who died in the attack.

Julia Reihs/KUT

From Texas Standard

As Election Day gets closer, the airwaves are getting more crowded with political ads. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and his challenger, Congressman Beto O'Rourke, in particular, have raised lots of money in their campaigns and are now spending it on TV and radio.

Austin-based Marketplace reporter Andy Uhler noticed some of the ads in English and Spanish are complicated by more than the issue of translation.


From Texas Standard:

According to the Department of Labor, it's 1969 again, meaning unemployment now stands at 3.7 percent, with earnings up over the past year by more than 3 percent. That's in part because, since March of this year, there have been more jobs than workers every single month.

Bob Daemmrich for The Texas Tribune

EL PASO — President Donald Trump on Thursday doubled down on his intent to militarize and fortify the border against a caravan of Central American asylum-seekers slowly making their way toward the United States, saying his administration recently did away with "catch and release" for undocumented immigrants and plans to erect tents to hold future border crossers — including their children — until their immigration cases are resolved.

NIAID/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone over the age of six months gets the flu vaccine before the end of October, but many won't for various reasons. While the following information should not be interpreted as one more reason not to get vaccinated, it certainly is worth considering that there may be a viable flu-shot alternative this year. 

A crew works to solder fencing at the Progreso-Nuevo Progreso International Bridge Tuesday morning.

From Texas Standard:

Over the years, Texas has served as a gateway for many traditions now embraced as a part of life. A lot of these cultural mashups that Texans celebrate come from our neighbors to the south.

Miguel Gutierrez Jr. /KUT

From Texas Standard:

Given a choice, many businesses might prefer to have less government regulation. Take America's automakers who've resisted the tightening of federal mileage and emission rules for years, claiming those laws make it tougher to sell cars. But now, one of the biggest players in the industry, General Motors, wants the government to adopt higher mileage standards nationwide, and create a national zero-emissions vehicle policy.

Micheline Maynard, who runs the crowdfunded journalism project Curbing Cars, and is a former Detroit bureau chief for The New York Times, says gasoline-powered vehicles are still going to be the bulk of GM's business, but it has asked for these standards in order to level the playing field in the electric-vehicle market.

Margaret Nicklas/Texas Standard

From Texas Standard:

On any given day between May and November, Bethany Bolling and her team of microbiologists at the Texas Department of State Health Services laboratory in Austin can be found sorting and sucking up mosquitoes for testing.

“The Culex species, we test for West Nile virus, Saint Louis encephalitis virus and Western equine encephalitis virus. And then our Aedes species mosquitoes, we test for Zika virus, chikungunya virus and the dengue viruses. Once we do the testing, if we detect any positive or virus-positive mosquito pools, then we call the local jurisdiction that sent us those mosquitoes and let them know there is virus activity in their area,” Bolling says.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

From Texas Standard:

This political season in Texas, yard signs have been at the center of stories that sound straight out of The Onion. There’s the couple who turned their front lawn into a giant, hand-painted Beto O’Rourke sign. Or the anti-Brett Kavanaugh sign in Hamilton that police threatened to confiscate after Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller posted about it on Facebook. Our Texas Decides series continues with a listener question you might call a sign of the times.

Kristen Cabrera/Texas Standard

From Texas Standard:

Cosmetology has been taught in high schools for decades, thanks in part to funding from the federal Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. But this year, the rules covering that grant money have changed, and that's causing some consternation among students and instructors. 

Yanira Hernandez twists strands of her mannequin's hair into a cinnamon bun shape.

The junior at Manor Senior High School, just outside Austin, is one of more than 12,000 Texas high school students on track to get a cosmetology license upon graduation. With the license, she'll be able to quickly enter the job market, and either forgo expensive higher education or help supplement it.