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

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.

Students who live near the bus locations can access the free Wi-Fi on their school computers weekdays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Nathan Bernier / KUT

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. 

Anti-Bully Pulpit

Mar 22, 2011
Photo by KUT News

A Texas Senate committee looked at legislation that would change definitions and solutions for bullying and cyber bullying issues. Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) authored a bill that provides the removal of a bully to another classroom or campus at the request of the victim. Currently, the student-victim of the bullying is moved.

Photo by Nicholas James Santiago http://www.flickr.com/photos/imnicholas/

After announcing yesterday that the Leander Independent School District should consider eliminating 250 positions to close a projected $29 million shortfall, Leander ISD Superintendent Bret Champion will make his case to the school board tonight. The meeting is slated to begin at 6:15 p.m.

Photo by ydhsu http://www.flickr.com/photos/ydhsu/

The sweeping state budget cuts that are prompting public school districts to lay off teachers in droves could discourage university graduates from entering the teaching field, according to a University of Texas educational researcher. 

"That's one of the things I really worry about," said Ed Fuller, a teacher retention researcher at the University of Texas at Austin's College of Education. "Because I think these cuts are going to send a message to people that education is not a profession to go into."

Photo by KUT News

Teachers, school officials, parents and students from across the state are once again flocking to the State Capitol today.  They’re jumping off the momentum from the thousands who showed up for an education rally on Saturday.  Monday's lobby day for the Texas American Federation of Teachers.  People will be handing out sardine cans to legislators. 

Photo by Pink Sherbet Photography http://www.flickr.com/photos/pinksherbet/

It's not often that state lawmakers admit they don't like the bill they just filed, but that's exactly what State Rep. Scott Hochberg (D-Houston) did today after filing HB 2485.  The bill is accompanied by a spreadsheet that shows how drastic cuts to public education would affect individual school districts.

"We'll be laying out a budget that cuts $9.8 billion out of the schools.  But that's a number that doesn't mean anything to a legislator unless they know that means you're taking between $500 and $2,500 dollars per WADA (weighted average daily attendance) out of their local district," Hochberg said.

Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

 

The Austin Independent School District's Board of Trustees last night opted not to adopt a plan to pay contract educators $10,000 for resigning voluntarily, reports Community Impact News.

According to Superintendent Meria Carstarphen, the board's recommendation stems from the possibility of AISD paying both incentive packages and unemployment insurance benefits, which would not save the district money.

Image courtesy AMagill http://www.flickr.com/photos/amagill/

In an effort to alleviate the pain inflicted by deleting more than 1,100 jobs, Austin School Trustees will consider a proposal tonight that would offer $10,000 lump sum payouts to teachers who resign voluntarily. The money would be provided in lieu of unemployment benefits of up to $10,790 per employee. A similar plan enacted in Dallas has proven popular, but AISD could be hindered by its advance notification of employees whose jobs are up for elimination.

Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

After a year of meetings and rancorous debate, the Austin ISD school board on Monday night will receive a ten year plan the recommends how it manage its buildings, athletic centers, and other facilities.

The Facility Master Plan Task Force's discussion about how the district could save money by closing and consolidating campuses sparked off a wave of protests, mostly by inner city parents flabbergasted that their high-performing schools would even be mentioned for closure.

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