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.

Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

Austin public schools superintendent Meria Carstarphen is attempting to pick up and dust off a politically risky facilities master plan that was reluctantly accepted this spring by the nine elected volunteers who govern the largest school district in Central Texas.

Photo by Ryan Murphy, Morgan Smith and Todd Wiseman

Whether final reductions to the state public education spending end up closer to $7.8 billion or $4 billion, how much districts will individually bear depends on how — or if — the Legislature rethinks the state’s school finance system. 

Photo courtesy of flickr.com/sarowen

Mike McKinney, the Chancellor of the Texas A&M University system, announced today that he'll step down as of July 1, 2011.

McKinney became A&M System chancellor in November 2006. Since then, system-wide enrollment in has increased from 103,000 students to almost 120,000 students.

“The 25 million taxpayers in the state of Texas certainly have received a significant return on their investment in the A&M System,” said McKinney in a letter to A&M employees.

Image courtesy Austin ISD

Until last summer, if you lived in a home that was deemed to be a historical landmark, you could get a big break on your school property tax bill. That came to an end in August 2010, when the Austin ISD school board decided to suspend those exemptions in the face of a looming fiscal crisis. Tonight, the board is scheduled to talk about whether to reinstate the program.

Photo by Liang Shi for KUT News

The University of Texas at Austin community is mourning the loss of senior vice president Shirley Bird Perry- who passed away Wednesday of cancer. She was 74.

After graduating from UT in the 1950s, Shirley Bird Perry started her career as program director of the Texas Union student center. She also served over a decade as a vice chancellor with the UT System.

Photo by KUT News

This afternoon, the University of Texas System released much-anticipated data on faculty "productivity" — noting, however, that the 821-page spreadsheet is in a raw draft form that has not been fully verified and "cannot yield accurate analysis, interpretations or conclusions."

Photo by KUT News

Classes at Austin Community College will be a little more expensive next year.

The ACC Board of Trustees cite declining state funding as the reason for the increase of $5 per credit hour for Fall 2011.  That means that students in the ACC taxation district would pay $52 per credit hour.  Out-of-district students tuition will rise to $194 per hour.  The board already voted to raise tuition for Summer semester by another $5 per hour.  They also expect they'll have to raise tuition again for Spring 2012.

Dr. Richard Rhodes was named the lone finalist last night to become CEO and president of Austin Community College. The ACC Board of Trustees voted unanimously to approve Rhodes. He is currently the president of El Paso Community College.

Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

An anti-bullying bill that passed Texas Senate today would require school districts to adopt a policy to prohibit, prevent and investigate bullying, both in person and online.

Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

The Austin Independent School District took a big step last night toward building a district-wide performing arts center. They agreed to buy a 4.5 acre, $4 million plot of land near the Dell Children’s Medical Center to construct the building.  But that construction might not begin for several years.

The Austin ISD has been trying to build a performing arts center for decades.  But over the past few months, board members have been forced to grapple with a financial crisis.

Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

The University of Texas System should avoid separating research and teaching and should continue to fund "soft" research into cultural or opinion-based topics, according to a letter submitted to the Board of Regents today by three large UT student groups.

The presidents of UT's Senate of College Councils, UT Student Government, and UT's Graduate Student Assembly are wading into a controversial debate that has ratcheted up tensions between Governor Rick Perry and legions of UT supporters. At issue is how to lower costs and increase efficiency at public universities in Texas.

Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

A contentious calculation used by the state to measure academic performance at schools will be abandoned, Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott announced today. The Texas Projection Measure (TPM) counted some students as passing, even if they failed, as long as they were algorithmically predicted to pass in the future. TPM had long drawn the ire of conservative business leaders, minority education activists and progressive policy groups.

Photo by KUT News

Two more elementary schools will offer dual language programs in the Austin Independent School District this fall. Sunset Valley Elementary and Travis Heights Elementary will join Becker, Ridgetop, Perez and Wooten elementary schools. The program will be offered to Pre-K and first grade students only, and will expand as students age.

With Central Texas superintendents shedding portions of their salaries to share the pain of public school cuts, we thought it would be interesting to compare their base salaries. We then broke it down on a dollar per student basis.  Continue reading for an interactive graph.

Photo of RRISD website by KUT News

Facing a projected budget deficit of $61 million, the Round Rock Independent School District has explained how it plans to eliminate $40.7 million of that shortfall. A prioritized list of 64 specific cuts would reduce the deficit to about $20 million. That remaining gap would be covered by RRISD's fund balance, a savings account that holds about $200 million.

Image courtesy flickr.com/hto2008

Some investors believe that buying gold is a good hedge against inflation.  If that's the case, then the University of Texas Investment Management Company (UTIMCO) may be protected for some time.

Photo by Torrie Hardcastle for KUT News

More than 100 students at Campbell Elementary received free eye exams today, and around 45 received new glasses, as part of a pilot program in Austin.

The project, called Kids Vision for Life, is a collaboration between local and statewide entities organized by the Austin Community Foundation, and seeks to provide children with free eye exams and glasses. The designer glasses were all donated by a company in Italy to the Essilor Vision Foundation, which is donating the lenses and eye exams.

Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

The nine elected men and women who govern the Austin school district will meet for a work session tonight aimed at tackling some of the options on the table for closing a projected budget gap of $94 million. One of those options would see advertising sold on the sides of school buses.

The proposal being investigated by AISD Chief Operating Officer Lawrence Fryer would split advertising revenue equally with the district and the vendor. AISD would retain full control over the content and type of advertising.

Photo by Nathan Bernier

Austin Independent School District Superintendent Meria Carstarphen sat down with KUT for a rare one-on-one interview this month covering a broad range of topics facing the school district as it grapples with a projected $94 million deficit. One statement Dr. Carstarphen made about Pease Elementary School caught the attention of eagle-eyed journalists at PolitiFact Texas.

Image by KUT News

Students at Leander High School got out a little early today.

According to the Leander ISD website, Leander High School evacuated its students at about 2:30 this afternoon on the advice of Leander Police. According to websites for both the school and the district, the evacuation was only a precautionary measure. District officials say there is no reason to believe that the evacuation is related to an incident that happened on the Leander High campus an hour earlier.

Photo by KUT News

The Chronicle of Higher Education has released a report on the compensation that higher education leaders, and the University of Texas ranks very high.

Superintendent Meria Carstarphen will be out in public again this evening with her financial chief, Nicole Conley-Abram, trying to explain the school district's budget situation and take input from the public.

Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

Superintendents and school board members from across the state will try to increase pressure on the Legislature this afternoon to limit cuts to public education. The Make Education A Priority rally is scheduled for 2 pm on the south steps of the Capitol.

"I think generally, what we're looking for is for legislators to really look at addressing the school finance system that was reformed back in 2006," Texas Association of School Boards spokesperson Dax Gonzales told KUT News. "That's where a lot of the problems stem from."

Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

The pink slips have already been sent to hundreds of employees in the Austin Independent School District. Tonight, the nine men and women on the AISD board of trustees will vote on whether to officially enact those job cuts. At the same time, a year-long process to develop a master plan for school district facilities will reach its culmination when board members are asked to approve the 10-year plan.

Both issues are highly contentious because of their broad implications for employees, students, and parents.

Photo by Forty Two http://www.flickr.com/photos/samxf42/

About 280 employees in the Round Rock Independent School District began learning this afternoon that they will no longer be employed next school year. RRISD is facing an estimated $60 million reduction in state funding.

Districts in Texas are required to notify contracted employees within 45 days of the end of the school year if they are losing their jobs. Austin ISD, the largest school district in Central Texas, has said it is eliminating more than 1,100 positions. RRISD is the second largest district in the region.

Photo by KUT News

Southwest Key, a national non-profit that operates a charter school in East Austin, is offering to lease Eastside Memorial High School and operate a prep academy in the building. Eastside Memorial currently houses a Global Tech High School and a Green Tech High School.  The Green Tech High was the only school in Austin ISD to be ranked "academically unacceptable" last year by the Texas Education Agency.

"That school has been low-performing for 11 or 12 consecutive years," communications consultant Paul Saldaña told KUT News. Saldaña's firm, Brisa Communications, is advocating on behalf of Southwest Key.

Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

State Senators writing a spending plan for Texas approved a measure yesterday that would soften the blow to public education.  The initial budget bill called for a cut of almost $10 billion. Senator Florence Shapiro said school districts cannot absorb that punch.

Photo by KUT News

School districts across Texas are in the sticky situation of trying to calibrate their spending for the next year without knowing exactly how deeply the state will cut public education. The largest school district in Central Texas, Austin ISD, will hold the first of two public hearings tonight to seek public input on how it should manage a projected $94 million shortfall, even though a large portion of that deficit has already been slashed through the elimination of more than 1,100 jobs.

Photo by e-magic http://www.flickr.com/photos/emagic/

Six Republican State Senators stood side by side this morning at the Capitol and proclaimed that the budget can be cut in Texas, even education, without affecting the classroom.  Senator Florence Shapiro says she has filed legislation that would make it easier for districts to relinquish themselves of administrative staff.

University of Texas students concerned about cuts to financial aid programs and skyrocketing tuition costs took to the streets this afternoon.

Dozens of people wearing “Invest in Texas” t-shirts and carrying handmade signs marched from the Student Activity Center to the Capitol, shouting slogans in support of higher education. 

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