Kate McGee

Education Reporter

Kate is the education reporter at KUT, covering the Austin Independent School District, public, and higher education in Texas. She got her public radio start at Fordham University's WFUV. Her voice has been heard on the East and West coasts as a reporter and producer for WNYC and KUNR in Reno, Nevada. She has also appeared on NPR's Morning Edition,  All Things Considered, The Takeaway  and more. In her spare time, Kate enjoys discovering new music, traveling and trying local beers. 

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Austin ISD
12:01 pm
Mon September 15, 2014

Austin ISD Celebrates Inaugural Pride Week

The Austin Independent School District began its first celebration of PRIDE Week today.
Credit http://www.flickr.com/asaustin

For the first time, the Austin Independent School District is celebrating Pride Week, which will feature conversations and celebrations to show support for their lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender staff and students.

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Education
9:58 am
Fri September 12, 2014

Texas Seeks Federal Grant for Pre-K Expansion

The TEA is seeking a four-year $30 million annual grant from the federal government to make pre-k classes readily available for moderate and low-income families.
Robert W. Hart

The Texas Education Agency has asked the federal government for grants to­ fund an expansion of pre-k programs statewide for moderate and low-income families.

Texas will compete with 35 other states, and Washington, D.C., and is eligible to receive up to $30 million annually over a four-year grant window. The grant expansion is offering a total of $160 million nationwide. The new federal grant would help states that currently serve more than 10 percent of four years olds to build and expand on those programs, which have faced drastic cuts over the years.

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Education
10:03 am
Wed September 10, 2014

Goodwill's Austin Charter Helps Older High School Dropouts Pick Up Where They Left Off

Georgina Hudson takes notes during class at the Goodwill Excel Center. The school is the first free public charter school for adults ages 19-50 in Texas. It's goal is to provide adults the opportunity and support to earn a high school diploma and post-sec
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

In Texas, students over the age of 25 are considered too old to educate, leaving many older high school dropouts with few ways to earn a diploma.

But a new charter school pilot program in Austin is hoping to change that. Goodwill Industries has opened a public charter school for students ages 19 to 50, which they hope to be a model for schools looking to help high school dropouts continue their education and earn their diploma.

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SXSW 2014
2:49 pm
Fri September 5, 2014

Austin Calls for Less Free Booze, More Enforcement Before the Next SXSW

The city says the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission will have an expanded presence at this year's South By Southwest.
Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

City of Austin officials are out with their evaluation of this year’s South by Southwest Music Festival. Most of the changes and recommendations involve alcohol consumption and crowds.

A major issue, according to city officials, is over-consumption of free alcohol. The city says next year, a representative from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission will be at the South by Southwest command post during the day.

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Education
6:03 pm
Wed September 3, 2014

ACLU Files Civil Rights Complaint Against Austin ISD Single-Sex Schools

Students at Gus Garcia Young Men's Leadership Academy, a new all-boys school on Austin's East Side. The ACLU is asking the federal government to investigate AISD for racial and sex discrimination for creating a single sex school.
Filipa Rodrigues/KUT

The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas is asking the federal government to investigate possible discrimination at the two single-sex campuses in the Austin Independent School District. The ACLU filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education Wednesday.

The ACLU says when the district decided to turn two failing East Austin middle schools into single-sex schools, it used unproven and debunked research about the differences in the way boys and girls learn.

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Education
9:41 am
Tue September 2, 2014

As School Begins, Two High Schools Mark Early College Program Program Expansions

Reagan High School is one of two early college programs in Austin ISD.
Photo by KUT News

While the school year is just beginning, for Reagan High School and LBJ High School the end of the year will mark the first graduating classes in their Early College programs.

The programs offer free tuition and books to students looking for a leg up in college, or to earn an associate’s degree while still in high school. For Reagan, the program has revitalized the East Austin school given 90 percent of economically disadvantaged students a chance to pursue higher education.

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Education
2:03 pm
Mon September 1, 2014

Austin ISD Secures $3 Million for Science Center at Anderson High School

The AusTIN CANs robotoics club from Anderson High School won the Engineering Inspiration Award, besting 400 other teams in the international FIRST Robotics World Championship.
Credit facebook.com/austincans

Last week, the Austin School Board accepted a nearly three million-dollar donation from a private donor to build a new applied technology center at Anderson High School. The new 14,000-square foot building will hold two computer labs dedicated to computer sciences as well as a manufacturing workshop to help in building robots for the school's nationally-recognized robotics program.

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Austin ISD
12:17 pm
Thu August 28, 2014

Single Sex Schools Breathe New Life into Failing East Austin Middle Schools

Principal Savina at the all-girls school says she still believes her school will provide female students with a better experience.
Filipa Rodrigues/KUT

Seventh graders are gathered in the cafeteria of the Gus Garcia Young Men’s Leadership Academy. They’re all dressed in white button down shirts and khaki pants. In their hands, they hold silver ties—which they are learning how to tie by themselves.

"Put it through the front hole and pull it down," instructs counselor, Sabrina Brown. "Okay. And start fixing it. Oh, there you go! Pull it, pull it!”

“This is so weird," says seventh grader Martin Gonzales. "I look like I’m going to work!”

Gonzales moved to Austin this summer and says he enrolled at Gus Garcia because his brother wanted to attend.

“But now that I’m here, it’s pretty cool," he says, despite the fact that it's all boys. "It’s pretty weird. I’m not used to it. Regularly my teachers call me a ladies man.”

Well, that won't matter as much at this school.

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AISD Budget
10:34 am
Wed August 27, 2014

AISD Passes 2015 Budget, Approves Pay Increase for Teachers & Employees

The Austin Independent School District board meeting on June 16, 2014.
Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT

Last night, the Austin Independent School District board approved a 2015 budget of over $1 billion, which includes pay increases for teachers and employees.

However, those increases are a one-time deal due to the so-called "recapture program" in the state's school finance laws, which will require a reallocation of $175 million in Travis County property taxes this year.

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Austin ISD
10:32 am
Fri August 22, 2014

'Alarm' Over Texas School Finance, But Changes Not Expected Soon

Despite a possible decision in the school finance case next week, it could be years before local school districts see a change to the way public schools are financed in Texas.
Nathan Bernier, KUT News

A decision in the latest school finance lawsuit is expected next week, but it could be years before school districts see any changes to the way education is paid for in Texas.

Right now, the school finance system is largely characterized by something called recapture, or  Robin Hood. If a school district collects more local property taxes than the state has determined it needs using a set of formulas, it has to give the difference back to the state. Then, the state puts that money in a big pot and uses it to fund other school districts, especially those that can’t raise enough local property taxes on their own.

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Austin ISD
10:50 am
Thu August 21, 2014

Here's Why Austin ISD Won't Keep All the Tax Money It Collects

Under the current school finance system, property wealthy school districts must return some of their local property taxes to the state under what's called recapture. Next week, a judge is expected to rule whether the system is constitutional.
flickr.com/alamosbasement

Within the next couple weeks, an Austin judge is expected to rule whether the state’s school finance system is constitutional. Meanwhile, Austin Independent School District officials are worried about how much money the district will have to educate students next year—and five years down the road. 

The reasons for that go back to something called “recapture," a process that means some school districts don’t get to keep all the money they collect. And it's extremely complicated.

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2014 Elections
12:58 pm
Tue August 19, 2014

Long Hours & No Pay Make School Board Hopefuls a Rare Find in Election Season

Candidates for the Austin School Board face long hours and late-night meetings.
Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT

Eighteen candidates are running for the five open seats on the Austin School Board this fall, which is nearly double the average number of people who have run for the school board in every election since 2002.

But, compared to the 78 candidates who have filed to run for the city council and the mayoral races this fall, the Austin school board doesn’t seem like the most popular place to spend your free time.   

That’s because being an Austin School Board Trustee isn’t easy.

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University of Texas
6:50 am
Tue August 19, 2014

Livestrong Gives $50 Million to UT's Dell Medical School

President Bill Powers says public-private partnerships such as the Livestrong Cancer Institutes are the future of UT-Austin's expansion.
Mengwen Cao/KUT

A $50 million donation to the forthcoming Dell Medical Center at UT-Austin will establish the Livestrong Cancer Institutes.

The gift, which will be doled out over the next decade, has pushed the university over its fundraising goal to raise $3 billion over eight years and looks to provide a new model of care for cancer patients in Travis County and beyond.

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Austin School Board
7:27 pm
Wed August 13, 2014

As School Board Elections Loom, Some Candidates Are Still Absent

Only seven candidates of the nine seats on the Austin Independent School District's Board of Trustees have applied ahead of the filing deadline on Aug. 18.
KUT News

Update: One candidate has filed to run for the AISD School Board in District One. David "D" Thompson filed with the district Wednesday. Scroll down for a full list of the filed candidates.

Original Story (10:01 a.m.): For students in Austin schools, deadlines for homework or class projects are usually accompanied with an appropriate level of last-minute scrambling.

But, for would-be candidates vying for open seats on the Austin Independent School District’s school board, Monday’s filing deadline isn’t inspiring the same level of frenzy typically associated with school-related deadlines.

Only seven potential candidates have thrown their hat into the ring since the elections opened up on July 18, but the late-filings aren’t anything new to the campaigns for Board of Trustee races.

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AISD
9:53 am
Tue August 12, 2014

Despite a Majority of Low-Income Students, 'Robin Hood' Targets AISD's Budget

More than 60 percent of students in the Austin Independent School District come from low-income families.
Photo by KUT News

As the Austin Independent School District gears up to trim the fiscal fat this budget season, the district faces a tough financial future.

Enrollment is flat, and the school board is preparing to lose more than $1 billion to the state's school finance system over the next five years through "recapture," which shares revenue from districts with high property tax revenues with low-income school districts.

The board met last night to discuss the future for the district next year and in the future.

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AISD
8:31 am
Mon August 11, 2014

Austin Schools Begin Pre-K Enrollment, Roll-Out Pilot Programs for 3-Year-Olds

Austin parents can now enroll 4-year-olds in pre-K classes if they are English Language Learners, qualify for reduced or free lunch or are homeless. The district is also testing a pilot program for 3-year-olds.
Robert W. Hart

Today, parents can begin enrolling their 4-year-olds in pre-K classes in the Austin Independent School District, but today also marks the districts roll-out of a pilot program to enroll qualified 3-year-olds in half-day pre-K classes.

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AISD
12:09 pm
Fri August 8, 2014

Nine Austin ISD Schools Fail State Standards

A sample question on a STAAR test.
Nathan Bernier/KUT

90 percent of school districts in Texas met state standards, according to results released Friday by the Texas Education Agency.

Under a new rating system that began last year, schools are rated as Met Standard, Met Alternative Standard or Improvement Required.

“Texans should be pleased to see the vast majority of districts, charters, and campuses are meeting the standards set in the second year of the state accountability system,” Education Commissioner Michael Williams said in a statement. “While the 2014 numbers are positive, the work continues in districts across our state to meet and exceed increasing state standards and the expectations of their local communities.”

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Austin ISD
3:37 pm
Thu July 31, 2014

At Blackshear Elementary, Students' Choices Help Build Their Future Portfolios

Students at Blackshear Elementary will choose which artistic elective they can study in the second half of their school day.
Courtesy of Blackshear Elementary

This fall, Blackshear Elementary will become Austin Independent School District’s first fine arts elementary school. The school offers students a choice in their daily lesson plans, with one half of the day focusing on academics and the other half focusing on arts education.

Tonight, the district will host an open house for parents interested in enrolling their students at the traditionally under-enrolled school.

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KUT's Summer School
4:32 pm
Fri July 25, 2014

Don't Get it Twisted: Making Balloon Animals Takes Lots of Practice

Kristen Crandall and Michael Hale work for Austin Kids Parties, a small business that does balloon twisting and face painting at birthday parties, festivals and corporate events.
Joe Capraro/KUT

It’s time for another edition of KUT’s Summer School! Every Friday this summer, we head out to learn new skills from people in Austin who are experts in their field. Today’s subject? Balloon Twisting.  

KUT’s Kate McGee teaches us how to learns the squeaky, yet delicate art of creating shapes out of balloons.

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Education
9:55 am
Fri July 25, 2014

Despite Campaign Focus, Texas Pre-K Won't Likely Expand Soon

Robert W. Hart

Over half of Texas children between the ages of three and four don't go to preschool, according to the annual Kids Count report released this week from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Texas schools offer free pre-K programs to 4-year-olds, but primarily only offer programs for 3-year-olds on a tuition basis. Those low numbers and access have drawn scrutiny from education advocates, lawmakers and even the candidates running for governor.

Despite the recent focus on preschool access for Texas children, efforts to expand access may to wait until after the upcoming legislative session.

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