Jody Serrano

Intern

Intern for KUT News

Technology
11:27 am
Thu December 5, 2013

Texan Named to Twitter's Board of Directors

Texarkana-born Marjorie Scardino is the first woman appotinted to Twitter's board of directors.
flickr.com/financialtimes

Social media giant Twitter announced Thursday that Marjorie Scardino – Texarkana native, Baylor grad and former Pearson CEO – is joining its board of directors. Scardino is the first woman to be appointed to Twitter’s board.

Scardino received a little more than 4,000 shares of Twitter to serve on its board, according to SEC filings. She comes onboard after the company was criticized for not having women in high company positions. Twitter went public in November and is estimated to be worth more than $20 billion.

Scardino led educational publishing company Pearson for more than 10 years until 2012. During that time, she tripled its profits to a record $1.5 billion.

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Texas
10:07 am
Tue November 26, 2013

Refusal To Pay Claims Casts Doubt On Texas Windstorm Insurer

Galveston Island in 2008 after Hurricane Ike. Lawsuits over damages are the latest challenge for the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association.
Staff Sgt. James L. Harper Jr., U.S. Air Force via flickr.com/chucksimmins

A refusal to pay losses caused by Hurricane Ike has again thrust the bedraggled Texas Windstorm Insurance Association (TWIA) into the courthouse, while raising doubts over the agency’s process for resolving claims.

The city of Galveston sued TWIA Friday. It claims the agency is refusing to pay almost $14 million for damage caused by the storm, even after agency and city appraisers agreed on the cost.

League City is also suing TWIA over $3.4 million in unpaid damages it says the agency agreed it would pay.

TWIA declined to comment on the lawsuits. State Rep. Craig Eiland, D-Galveston, is representing the city of Galveston. Houston trial lawyer Steve Mostyn, who has secured millions for TWIA policyholders, is representing League City.

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Education
1:00 pm
Fri November 22, 2013

Educators Concerned Reforms Could Limit College Options

Flickr user MomMaven, flic.kr/ps/rCKQr

This story has been co-reported for Reporting Texas and KUT News.

Now that leading Texas educators are catching up with the fine print in the state’s new omnibus education reform law, they find themselves chafing over a previously overlooked prospect: Even students who score straight A’s throughout high school might not be eligible for automatic admission to state-run universities.

Under new graduation requirements contained in House Bill 5, approved by the Legislature in May, students graduating with the most basic degree, the so-called foundation plan, won’t be counted in a school’s end-of-year class rankings. Under state law, only graduates in the top 10 percent of their classes are automatically admitted to the state’s public universities.

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State Board of Education
11:46 am
Thu November 21, 2013

State Board of Education Considers Bond Program for Charter Schools

Education Commissioner Michael Williams grants charter school applicants with licenses, but the State Board of Education can veto charter schools if they desire. The SBOE didn't veto any of Williams' charter schools at a meeting Thursday.
Filipa Rodrigues, KUT News

The State Board of Education took a step further this week in its support of charter schools, as it established guidelines for a bond program expected to save charters millions of dollars.

The board wrestled with policies for its Bond Guarantee Program for Charter Schools, which was created earlier this year under House Bill 885. Under that law, charter schools, if approved, will have certain bonds guaranteed by the state and its Permanent School Fund, a $28 billion endowment for public schools.

Bonds help charters build and improve their facilities, which many say is one of their biggest challenges to date. Lawmakers gave charter schools limited access to a bond program in 2011. The new law expands that access, by guaranteeing refinanced bonds and allowing certain bond money to be returned to charter schools for instructional purposes.

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Geographic Representation
7:20 am
Wed November 13, 2013

MAP: The Newest Changes to Austin's Proposed City Council Districts (Update)

A new map of Austin’s proposed council districts is ready for input, before final adoption later this year.
Credit Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission

Update: Austinites have just two more opportunities to weigh in on a proposed city council district map.

A citizens group is dividing Austin into 10 geographic districts. Starting next November, each district will elect one city council member. Everyone will vote on the mayor.

The district-drawing group is expected to approve the final map soon.

Wednesday's public meeting is at The Lodge on Dawson Road in south Austin. It starts at 6:30 p.m.

Thursday's public meeting is at the Millennium Youth Entertainment Complex on Hargrave Street in east Austin. It also starts at 6:30 p.m.

Click here to see an interactive version of the "official proposed final map" drawn by the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission.

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Education
12:11 pm
Fri November 1, 2013

Study Finds Texas' HB 5 Could Negatively Affect Minority Students

A study from the University of Texas finds recent educational changes could mean teachers encourage minority students to pursue less academically challenging high school diplomas.
flickr.com/wallyg

While school administrators work to clear the fog surrounding House Bill 5, the state's suite of educational changes, some are saying the bill could hurt the minority students’ chances to go to college.

A study by UT-Austin’s Institute for Urban Policy Research and Analysis found that HB 5 might lead school counselors to set minority students on a less rigorous degree plan designed for students who do not want to go to college. UT researchers say this is because school administrators often have low academic expectations for poor black students.

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Affordable Care Act
10:25 am
Fri November 1, 2013

What Obamacare Means for Texas Students' Health Insurance

Students have several heath care options under the Affordable Care Act, although the law has helped drive up prices in the insurance marketplace.
flickr.com/lidor

University of North Texas student Angela Quijano didn’t think about health insurance much before the Affordable Care Act. She says she didn’t know how the health insurance system worked and found getting coverage confusing.

Quijano did know one thing, though: she couldn’t go to the doctor because she didn’t have any health insurance.

“Nobody ever really talks about it. My parents basically told me when I had it, or (when) I didn’t have it,” Quijano, a 22-year-old senior majoring in political science, says. “Not too many of us think about it until it comes time to get a yearly checkup or something comes up.”

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Education
6:24 am
Mon October 21, 2013

UT College of Communication Receives $50 Million Donation, New Name

The University of Texas at Austin's College of Communication is now the Moody College of Communication.
KUT News

The College of Communication at the University of Texas at Austin will soon have a new name – the Moody College of Communication.

The Moody Foundation is donating $50 million to the college, the largest donation in the college’s history.

The donation will be paid out over 10 years and will fund various initiatives, including a $10 million innovation fund and $13 million for graduate student recruitment and retention.

Money will also be used to build a sky bridge across Dean Keeton Street to link the Belo Center for New Media and the Jesse H. Jones Communication Center. UT will provide an extra $5 million to improve classroom space and facilities, which includes the sky bridge.

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Toll Roads
12:19 pm
Thu October 17, 2013

TxDOT Pressuring Toll Offenders: Pay Up or Be Named (Update)

With more than $27 million in uncollected tolls, the Texas Department of Transportation is hoping that harsher punishments – including releasing names of the 28,000 drivers with more than 100 unpaid tolls – will improve collections.
SH 130 Concession Company

Update: Central Texas residents owe the state more than $27 million in unpaid tolls, and Texas is trying out a new method to collect the dough.

On Thursday, the Texas Department of Transportation released its list of the top 25 toll violators in the state. Topping the list was a Pflugerville resident who had 14,358 unpaid toll transactions, which totaled $236,026. Second place went to a Hutto resident with 10,566 unpaid tolls that added up to $217,619.

Violators were from six cities: Pflugerville, Hutto, Round Rock, Austin, Taylor and Leander. If violators do not pay up, Senate Bill 1792, which passed earlier this year, gives TxDOT the authority to possibly deny the offender’s vehicle registration and ban them from using TxDOT toll roads. 

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Education
2:21 pm
Thu September 26, 2013

Committee Won't Look Into UT Regent's Call to Alabama Coach's Agent

A legislative committee mulling items of impeachment against UT Regent Wallace Hall says his call to Nick Saban’s agent won’t figure in the committee’s investigation.
KUT News

A legislative committee investigating University of Texas System Regent Wallace Hall will not consider recent allegations claiming Hall abused his powers by talking to a sports agent about replacing UT football coach Mack Brown.

Reports surfaced last week that Hall spoke to an agent for Nick Saban, the football coach for the top-ranked University of Alabama, in January. Former UT Regent Tom Hicks was also on the call. Hicks then asked Brown if he wanted to retire, but Brown said he did not.

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Affirmative Action
12:02 pm
Fri September 20, 2013

New Hearing Set for UT Affirmative Action Case

The first hearing regarding UT's affirmative action policies since the Supreme Court returned the issue to a lower court is set for November.
KUT News

A new hearing in the Fisher v. University of Texas affirmative action case has been scheduled for Nov. 13.

Three judges from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals will gather in Austin to hear oral arguments in the case from both sides. UT officials said the hearing will occur after both sides submit their briefs for the case, but did not say much more about the hearing.

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State Board of Education
4:59 pm
Wed September 18, 2013

State School Board Undecided on What Courses Should Count for Graduation (Update)

State Board of Education member Patricia Hardy, photographed in 2011. The board is wrestling with high school course graduation requirements.
Daniel Reese for KUT News

Update: State Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, spoke and answered questions regarding House Bill 5 in front of the State Board of Education today.

Patrick’s endorsement of the bill, which provides for different paths to high school graduation, was met with skepticism from board member Patricia Hardy. Hardy’s concern revolved around the removal of social studies classes from high school graduation requirements. She argued that turning social studies courses into electives limits a student’s exposure to important information.

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Gov. Rick Perry
12:56 pm
Thu September 12, 2013

Perry Defends Jobs Tour Through Maryland

Gov. Rick Perry at the 2012 Texas Republican Convention. Gov. Perry is embarking on another promotional jobs tour through another state critics call poaching.
Ben Philpott, KUT News

Gov. Rick Perry defended his efforts to bring jobs from other states to Texas on Thursday – and told critics that if they can't stand competition, they should get out of the game.

Perry will visit Maryland on Sept. 18. He has already spent nearly $500,000 on radio and TV ads touting Texas' low taxes and regulation in the state. Maryland is the sixth state Perry has visited this year, following California, New York, Connecticut, Missouri and Illinois.

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San Antonio
3:47 pm
Thu September 5, 2013

San Antonio Passes LGBT Non-Discrimination Ordinance

Tyler Pratt/KUT News

A citywide debate over whether lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender individuals should be included in San Antonio’s non-discrimination policy came to a fiery end on Thursday.

Before a crowd of hundreds at City Hall, the San Antonio City Council adopted an ordinance aimed at preventing discrimination against people because of sexual orientation and gender identity.

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Wendy Davis
9:02 am
Thu September 5, 2013

Wendy Davis' Father Dies; Speculation Builds Over Run for Governor

Sen. Wendy Davis, D- Fort Worth, during her famous 13-hour filibuster in June. Davis said she would announce a decision on her political future this month, but her father’s death may complicate matters.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Jerry Russell, the father of State Sen. Wendy Davis, died Thursday at 77. The news sparks more anticipation for those waiting to hear whether Davis will announce a run for governor in 2014.

Russell has been in critical condition at a Fort Worth hospital since August after complications developed from abdominal surgery. Davis was expected to make an announcement about whether she would run for governor in early September, but postponed the news to take care of her father.

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