Education

Austin ISD, the University of Texas, Austin Community College, Texas A&M University, charter schools, legislative issues, and anything else related to K-12, public education, higher education and workforce development in Central Texas, Travis County, and Austin.

Texas State University

The St. David's Foundation says it will spend $2 million to help fund a master's of science in nursing program at the Texas State University Round Rock Campus.

The program would allow registered nurses to become certified as nurse practitioners, which means they could take on many of the responsibilities of a primary care physician. 

Todd Wiseman via Texas Tribune

In a decision certain to be appealed to the Texas Supreme Court, state district Judge John Dietz ruled Monday in favor of more than 600 school districts on all of their major claims against the state's school finance system.  With a swift ruling issued from the bench shortly after the state finished its closing arguments, Dietz said the state does not adequately or efficiently fund public schools — and that it has created an unconstitutional de-facto property tax in shifting the burden of paying for them to the local level.

Bobby Blanchard / KUT News

In a move state rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, equated to taking lemons and making lemonade, some members of the Texas House, Senate and UT System Board of Regents are hoping to combine UT-Pan American and UT-Brownsville into a single university that touches all major metropolitan areas of the Rio Grande Valley.

KUT News

Governor Rick Perry called for more career and technical programs—in addition to expanding charter schools and implementing a tax-credit scholarship program—during his address to the State Board of Education and its eight newly elected members this morning.

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

Today is the deadline to apply for priority school transfers in the Austin Independent School District for next school year.

Non-priority transfers to be considered during the first-round lottery selection are also due today. All applications need to be delivered in person to the Office of Student Services at the Carruth Administration Center by 5 p.m. or postmarked by today’s date.

Applications that aren't received by today will be considered on a first-come, first-served basis when space is available at the desired school. All transfer requests for the fall of 2014 must be received by Aug. 12.

Round Rock ISD

Round Rock ISD superintendent Jesus Chavez says he will retire in December. Chavez has been superintendent of the Round Rock school district since February 2006.

By the time he retires, Chavez will have spent almost eight years on the job. That's three years longer than the average tenure of a superintendent in towns with more than 100,000 people, according to a study from the National School Boards Association

Austin Feldman

Austin elementary school students performed strongly in the new State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) exams. Middle schoolers didn't do quite as well.

Overall, the AISD passing rates for the STAAR—the standardized test that replaces the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS)—ranged from 82 percent in third and fourth grade reading to 58 percent in eighth grade social studies. Passing rates for most tests topped 70 percent.

KUT News

University of Texas at Austin President Bill Powers says UT could save up to $490 million dollars over a decade by changing its operations system.  

Powers presented the cost-cutting recommendations, "Smarter Systems for a Greater UT "at a press conference today. The recommendation came from a committee of local business leaders Powers put together last April. The committee put forward measures raising the prices of housing, food and parking, outsourcing some parts of UT’s operation and commercializing UT-generated technology.

flickr.com/alamosbasement

The Austin Independent School District is inviting the public to weigh-in this evening on a potential bond package.

The nearly $900 million bond proposal could go before voters as soon as May. Among other things, it proposes adding four new elementary schools to address overcrowding.

flickr.com/wmode

Allowing teachers to carry concealed handguns could make them targets in a school shooting, according to one law enforcement expert who testified before lawmakers Monday. State Senators held a joint committee hearing to hear ideas on improving safety in public schools in the wake of a school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut that claimed 26 lives. 

KUT News

Some professors at the University of Texas are raising concerns over the university’s new conflict of interest policy.


UT put the the new policy into place in August 2012.  It requires faculty to disclose their financial information and the financial information of their spouse or dependent child whenever there is the possibility of a conflict of interest. The policy follows two controversial incidents last summer, when two UT professors were accused of conflicts of interest relating to studies they published.

Texas Lawmakers to Discuss School Safety Policy Changes

Jan 28, 2013
flickr.com/alamosbasement

Texas lawmakers are coming together to talk about school safety this afternoon.

The Senate Committee on Education is meeting with the Committee on Agriculture, Rural Affairs and Homeland Security to review current student safety policies and to discuss the potential for any policy changes.

Senators will hearing from both the public and experts about how improvements can be made to school safety.

Bobby Blanchard for KUT News

Preliminary budgets in the Texas Legislature show cuts to higher education funding. Today and Monday, state lawmakers will hear from individual state universities and university systems about what funding they need.

The state’s higher education institutions will present their funding requests to the Texas Senate Finance Committee. The Texas State University System, the Texas Tech University System, the University of Houston System and the University of North Texas System will present today. The University of Texas and Texas A&M University systems will speak to the committee on Monday.

Tiffany Szerpicki, Texas Tribune

A new group promoting charter schools and other overhauls to public education has the backing of State Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston), the powerful chair of the Senate Education Committee. Patrick stood with leaders of the new organization -- Texans Deserve Great Schools (TDGS) -- as they outlined their goals, which included more stringent teacher and principal evaluations, more punitive policies for failing schools and a removal of the cap on Texas charter schools.

Bob Daemmrich/Texas Tribune

When Dr. M. Katherine Banks took over as the dean of Dwight Look College of Engineering at Texas A&M University and vice chancellor for engineering at Texas A&M University System last year, she encountered a few surprises.

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

The Austin ISD Board of Trustees will hold a public meeting to discuss a nearly $900 million bond proposal tonight at Crockett High School in South Austin. 

KUT News

By the state’s own reckoning, Texas’ population increased four percent  increase from 2011 to 2013.  And Lawmakers cut education spending by more than $5 billion last session. But Gov. Rick Perry says education spending has outpaced statewide enrollment growth, and by a wide margin.

KUT News

Texas public school teachers saw their salaries rise slightly last year, but it was still among the lowest pay raises in the last decade. The Texas Association of School Boards published its annual teacher salary survey today. TASB’s human resources chief Cindy Clegg says the average teacher salary increased by 1.6 percent in the 2012-13 school year to $49,139.

KUT News

The Austin Independent School Board will meet behind closed doors this evening. According to the executive session agenda, they may discuss possible lawsuits surrounding the district’s decision to cancel its contract with IDEA Public Schools.

In December, the board voted 5 to 4 to cancel the contract that hired IDEA to run an in-district charter at Allan Elementary.

National Center for Education Statistics

A new study shows Texas' four-year high school graduation rate rose to 78.9 percent in 2009-2010, putting the Lone Star State above the national average of 78.2 percent.

A federal study released by the National Center of Education Statistics shows that Texas' four-year graduation rate increased from its previous study, from 73.1 percent in the 2006-2007 school year to 78.9 percent in 2009-2010.

Lizzie Chen for KUT News

Texas Association of Business president Bill Hammond testified in the ongoing school finance trial yesterday, saying that Texas businesses can’t find applicants that have the academic and professional skills required. Hammond says that the most educated segment of Texas’ workforce is the soon-to-be retired.

Ann Choi, KUT news

The political battle over Texas public schools is heating up as the legislative session shifts into gear. In addition to  arguments over whether to restore $5.4 billion cut from public education in 2011, two high profile Senate Republicans want a school voucher system that would give low income students a shot at attending a private school. But critics say all vouchers do is strip money from the public education system and hand it over to private schools.

“We’re going to allow businesses to deduct up to 25 percent of what they would pay in the franchise tax, and that money will go to a non-profit to be distributed to families based on need," State Senator Dan Patrick has explained. "By doing this, we are going to give them an opportunity to get a scholarship if they so choose to send their child to that private school.” So-called "tax credit scholarships" exist in about a dozen states. 

On Thursday, a nonprofit group, the Coalition for Public Schools, argued fiercely against the measure. In a news conference at the Capitol, the Coalition said the State needs to invest more in the existing public school system.

Update 3:45pm: Lake Travis ISD says nothing has been found in the area where a suspicious person was reported and the lockdown has been lifted at all schools. 

Update 2:35pm: The lockdown has been lifted at Lake Travis ISD schools, except for Lake Travis Elementary School and the district's Education Development Center, where the report of suspicious activity originated.

Update 2:15pm: Lake Travis ISD spokesman Marco Alvarado says the lockdown was in response to a report of suspicious activity at the district's Education Development Center near Lake Travis Elementary. 

Alvarado said there were no reports of any weapons at this point.

EARLIER: All schools in Lake Travis are on lockdown, following reports of a suspicious individual at an unnamed building. 

Schools in the Lake Travis ISD include Lake Travis High School, Hudson Bend Middle School , Lake Travis Middle School, Bee Cave Elementary School, Lake Pointe Elementary School, Lake Travis Elementary School, Lakeway Elementary School, and Serene Hills Elementary School.  

No more details are available at this time; KUT News is waiting to hear back from the Lakeway Police Department, and will update this post with more information once it becomes available. 

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

A plan to spend almost $889 million on upgrades to buildings and facilities in the Austin school district school will be presented to the school board for consideration tonight. The recommended bond package is the result of months of work by a citizens advisory committee.

The bond package proposal is divided into four separate parts:  $350 million for critical repairs, $264 million to help build more schools and add classrooms to alleviate overcrowding, $131 million to be spent on fixing cafeterias, technology and science labs and energy conservation, and another $145 million on facility improvements for fine arts, athletics, career and technology, special education.  You can read the breakdown in this AISD document

courtesy Andrew Magill at flickr.com/amagill/

The University of Texas is warning students to be cautious of emails from private companies that advertise student loans from for-profit lenders.

Those emails may use misleading wording in the subject line that could suggest that they were sent by the university. But the Office of Student Financial Services at UT does not promote or endorse any private lenders, according to spokeswoman Jamie Brown.

She says that even with reputable companies, students should shop carefully.

Tamir Kalifa, Texas Tribune

At a press conference on Thursday afternoon, three conservative groups — the Texas Public Policy Foundation, the National Association of Scholars and the Texas Association of Scholars — will release a sure-to-be controversial report alleging that the University of Texas and Texas A&M University offer students "a less-than-comprehensive picture of history.”

The report’s rollout is part of a three-day policy orientation by the TPPF, an Austin-based think tank that has been tied to some of the state's most hotly-debated proposed higher education reforms. It signals a renewed push to reconsider the course offerings in the history departments of the state’s public universities, and particularly to boost the number of courses dedicated to the study Western Civilization.

Carlos Morales/KUT News

The Eanes school district will become one the first in the state to distribute iPads to every single one of its students, kindergarten through 12th grade.

The Texas Legislature paved the way for school districts to adopt tablets two years ago by allowing schools districts to spend textbook money on digital learning materials.

Of course, the school districts still have to buy their own iPads, and that’s what the Eanes school board voted to do last month: Spend $1.2 million to buy enough iPad 2s for every student in the district.

Callie Richmond for Texas Tribune

The School Land Board voted Tuesday to release $300 million into the Available School Fund for public schools.

The money will be released in two $150 million installments, one in February and the other on June. The funds had been caught in a standoff between the Legislature and the School Land Board, which operates out of the General Land Office and oversees the state’s public school land. 

KUT News

The Austin school board is set to resume discussion on a boys-only school. The move comes just one month after the topic was postponed indefinitely.

The AISD board is set to discuss a total of three single-sex schools in a special meeting tonight: a School for Young Men and turning Garcia and Pearce Middle Schools into single-sex schools – one for boys and the other for girls.

Holidays are typically a festive time, with breaks from the routine, meals with loved ones, maybe even some gifts. But for many families across the U.S., the season comes with intense stress: Roughly 1 in 5 families with children are not getting enough food.

For some, free or reduced-price school meals have become a major source of basic nutrition. When schools close for the holidays, many of those families struggle to fill the gap.

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