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Top Morning Stories for Tuesday, December 20th

Photo by Callie Richmond/Courtesy of The Texas Tribune.
Photo by Callie Richmond/Courtesy of The Texas Tribune. Michael Morton sits beside his mother, Patricia Morton, during an emotional press conference after a judge agreed to release him on personal bond after he spent nearly 25 years in prison.

Judge Formally Dismisses Charges Against Michael Morton

Late Monday District Judge Sid Harle formally dismissed the murder charge against Williamson County's Michael Morton. Morton had served 25 years in prison for the murder of his wife.  Judge Harle delayed a decision on Morton's request that a special court look into whether prosecutor Ken Anderson concealed evidence relating to Morton's trial.

AISD Votes to Contract with IDEA Charter School

Last night the Austin Independent School Board voted 6 to 3 to sign a contract with IDEA Public Schools – a charter school operator from South Texas. Superintendent Meria Carstarphen said the urgent need to improve low performing schools merited bold action. But opponents of the charter school project have vowed to keep fighting, according to KUT's Nathan Bernier. 

The plan takes effect next school year. IDEA will start a college prep-style charter program at Allan Elementary in East Austin. In the 2013-14 school year, it will expand to include some grades in Eastside Memorial High School, which is the school district’s main target. The program will be optional.

Texas Loses up to Ten Percent of its Trees

The historic Texas drought may have claimed up to 500 million of the states trees according to a report out from the Texas Forest Service. That number does not take into consideration the millions of trees also lost in the wildfires that came with the drought reports the Statesman.