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. 

Ways to Connect

Nathan Bernier / KUT

Public school districts in Texas are no longer supposed to file criminal charges against a student for missing too much school. They’re supposed to use the court system only as a last resort. It’s part of last year’s sweeping change to the state’s truancy law that put more emphasis on preventing dropouts and truancy rather than criminalizing that behavior. But school districts are still waiting for some state guidance on how to do that.


Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / KUT

State education leaders want 60 percent of Texans 25 to 34 years old to have some kind of post-secondary certificate or degree by the year 2030. But to get there, students need to be ready to take college-level classes, and it can take leaders time to agree just who qualifies as prepared.


Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / KUT

This fall, the Manor Independent School District is starting a new kind of lending library: Students will be able to check out and take home backpacks filled with books from their teachers.  It’s part of a larger effort to get more books in front of younger students and their families. But, that can be difficult in the small Austin suburb, especially during the summer.


Robert W. Hart / Texas Tribune

School districts in Texas will have more money next year to implement pre-kindergarten programs. The state awarded $116 million last week to school districts as part of legislation passed in 2015. For many Central Texas school districts, that money will go toward additional training for teachers.


Spencer Selvidge / KUT

In the photo, a curly-haired woman stares into the camera wearing a red lifeguard bathing suit, holding a long, red rectangular flotation device over her shoulder.

Texas Tribune

The next legislative session is still more than six months away, but the Austin Independent School District has already chosen its focus issues for the next session. The first one isn’t surprising: school funding. The other is mental health. Austin ISD provides nearly 2,000 students with on-site counseling every year. 


Mengwen Cao for KUT

For some Austin residents in the Windsor Park neighborhood, the problems began two years ago. That's when charter school Austin Achieve built a new school right next to the neighborhood — 16 feet away from some homes, to be exact. 


Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / KUT

When students graduate high school, people typically say they have the whole world ahead of them. But some of their future can be predicted just by looking at their high school transcript. New data show that if students in Central Texas take advanced math courses, they have a higher chance of graduating college.


Nearly 100 students enter the gym at the Texas A&M International University in Laredo. They’re practicing for their graduation. As they enter, "Pomp and Circumstance" fills the gymnasium as it's played into a microphone off a phone. 

Principal Israel Castilla takes the students through the ceremony.

"You’re going to be shaking hands and then you have three seconds with the picture," Castilla says.

These students, though, aren’t graduating from college. These are high school students, but many of them are already halfway toward a college degree – thanks to their school: Laredo Early College High School.


Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / KUT

These stories were produced in partnership with PRI's Global Nation project.

For many first-generation college students, high school graduation is seen as a major milestone for them and their families.

Many of those students in Austin say they wouldn’t have graduated or been accepted to college without the help of Breakthrough Austin. It’s a non-profit that helps first generation college students get their degree.

Many immigrant parents who did not graduate high school or college struggle to navigate the education system in the United States. 

Breakthrough meets these students in middle school, pairs the students with a counselor and help them get into good high schools in Austin and succeed academically.

They also help them understand the college application and the financial aid processes.

This week, some of those graduating students and their families share their stories. 

Jon Shapley for KUT

New data from the education non-profit, E3 Alliance, shows that students who enter kindergarten and speak a language other than English are actually twice as likely to pass the third grade STAAR test.


Mengwen Cao / KUT

School’s out, but the Austin School Board is already thinking about classes next fall. The board wants to talk about adding an ethnic studies course in the district, and some school board members want to make the class a graduation requirement.


Jorge Sanhueza Lyon / KUT

Ella is 14 years old. She loves theater and clothes. She's smart, too.  She was on the Kealing Middle School quiz bowl team, an academic quiz like "Jeopardy." She was also accepted into the Austin ISD’s best high school next year: the Liberal Arts and Science Academy.  

Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / KUT

For nearly five million students in the U.S., English isn’t their first language. In Austin ISD, some of those students are sent to a special school for international students, a school where dozens of languages are spoken. There, the idea is to help the students learn English before sending them back to their neighborhood high school. But something else happens as well.


Mengwen Cao / KUT News

There’s a fight brewing at City Hall over what regulations Austin charter schools must abide by to build new facilities. City staff says there are loopholes that allow charters to construct buildings without the same regulations as other public school districts, but charter schools disagree.


Charlotte Carpenter / KUT

Austin’s Robert E. Lee Elementary school has a new name: Russell Lee. The Austin School Board voted 8-1 to change the name Monday night. But for some school board members, the decision wasn't an easy one.


Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

This week, the Vision Zero draft plan moved through the city council’s Mobility Committee this week. The committee voted 3 to 1 to send it to the full council for final vote. If approved, it’s up to the Vision Zero task force and various city departments to make sure the recommendations become a reality. Not everyone is confident the lead department, Austin Transportation, can handle that responsibility.


Miguel Gutierrez Jr./KUT

Francis Reilly is unique for an Austinite: he doesn’t have a car. He mostly rides his bike, but these days he mostly depends on the bus. To explain why, he met me at intersection of Wallis and Rollingwood Drives in Austin's Rollingwood neighborhood west of MoPac. 

“This is where I was hit by a landscaping truck about two years ago," Reilly says, as cars whiz by us. 

Miguel Gutierrez Jr./ KUT News

This story is part of our series, The Road to Zerowhich explores traffic deaths and injuries in Austin and the city's plan to prevent them.

Traffic fatalities are down nationwide, but new research shows those declines are mostly among highly educated people. If you have less than a high school diploma, the rate of death in a car crash has actually increased.

Miguel Gutierrez Jr./KUT News

This story is part of our series, The Road to Zero, which explores traffic deaths and injuries in Austin and the city's plan to prevent them.

Robert Lormond is standing on the corner of Ben White and Manchaca watching his friend, Jerry. Two police officers have stopped him.

“I called him across the street. I didn’t see a police officer and he jaywalked," Lormond says.

There are crosswalks on three of the four sides of this intersection, but Jerry cut across the road—the one side without a crosswalk and that's illegal.

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