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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West Plant Explosion
8:49 am
Fri May 17, 2013

Cause of Blast in West Fertilizer Plant Explosion Still Unknown

Filipa Rodrigues, KUT News

State and federal fire officials say it’s still unclear what caused a fire that led to the explosion at a fertilizer plant in the town of West. The investigation will remain open. Despite many unknowns, residents are trying to move forward.

On North Reagan Street, the only sounds you hear are screeching grackles and the occasional resident returning to what’s left of his or her home.  Nearly every house on this street is destroyed. Windows and doors are blown out. Roofs caved in. Broken furniture is scattered across lawns. There is a stench in the air that originates from a fly covered refrigerator. Someone has written "Do Not Open, Spoiled Meat" on the front.

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Education
6:00 am
Thu May 16, 2013

Prop 2 Defeat Puts Brakes on New South Austin High School

Lockers at Bowie High School. Parents and community members want a new high school constructed in the area to relieve overcrowding at that school, among others.
Nathan Bernier/KUT News

Some Austin school board members say the failure of bond Proposition 2 means the opening of a new high school in South Austin will most likely be delayed.

The proposition included $8 million for studies to design the new high school. Officials say now the district will have to wait until the next bond election.

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West Plant Explosion
2:14 pm
Wed May 15, 2013

Officials to Announce Results from Investigation into West Explosion

Officials are expected to announce the results of their investigation into the April 17 fertilizer plan explosion in West, Texas on Thursday.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

State Fire Marshal's Office and ATF officials Thursday will announce the final results of their investigation into the fertilizer plant explosion in West.

The April 17 explosion killed 15 people and injured hundreds.

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Education
9:31 am
Wed May 15, 2013

AISD’s Prop 4 Failure Means Less Money for Special Ed Schools

The Rosedale School for disabled children. If the entire bond package passed, it would've received $8.5 millon for renovations. Now, it will receive $400,000.
flickr.com/cool.as.a.cucumber

This failure of AISD bond Proposition 4 means the district's two schools for disabled children won't be getting as many renovations and repairs as the district had proposed.

Prop 4 would've put $10 million toward the district's two schools for disabled children, the Rosedale School and the Clifton Career Development Center. It also would have earmarked money for Career and Technical and Fine Art programs.

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Education
8:22 am
Mon May 13, 2013

For One Austin School, Funding Hangs on Affordable Housing

Travis Heights Elementary could see enrollment slide if nearby housing prices rise.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Residents at the Oak Creek Village apartments in south Austin are waiting to see if the state grants a developer tax incentives to construct a new, larger complex in its place.  The developer, Eureka Family Group, wants to keep 173 units as affordable housing — which would allow current residents to stay in their homes.

But, if the state doesn't approve the project, many residents might have to move.  Educators and parents at the nearby school — Travis Heights Elementary — are also concerned.

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Education
7:00 am
Sat May 11, 2013

The AISD Bond Election is Here

AISD's $892 Million dollar bond is up for a vote Saturday
KUT News

Polls are now open across Austin for AISD's $892 million dollar bond election. 

Registered voters can vote with a voter registration card, driver’s license or official photo ID, birth certificate, United States citizenship papers or passport, or a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, or other official document that shows the name and address of the voter. There are many voting locations across Austin.

The bond is separated into four propositions. Each prop would use that money for different projects -everything from basic repairs to constructing new schools. 

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Education
5:05 am
Fri May 10, 2013

AISD Bond Election is Saturday

Polls are open 7 to 7 on Saturday to vote on the school bond.
Jason Brackins, Texas Tribune

Saturday is the last chance to vote in the Austin school district’s bond election. It’s the district’s largest bond proposition ever: $892 million.

Austin residents will four propositions to vote on. The propositions divide the nearly package by topics and projects.

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Education
9:43 am
Thu May 9, 2013

As Obama’s High School Visit Nears, Education Advocates Question Emphasis on STEM

President Obama is visiting Manor New Tech High School, which has a STEM based education program. But some experts question is there's too much emphasis on STEM.
flickr.com/amylovesyah

President Obama is visiting Manor New Tech High School, which has a STEM-based education program. But some experts question is there's too much emphasis on STEM.

Brenda Ramlow’s daughter Paige is a junior at Manor New Tech, the high school President Barack Obama is visiting this afternoon. She says her daughter is interested in a career in video graphics.

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Education
10:14 pm
Mon May 6, 2013

Update: AISD Board Approves Johns Hopkins As Eastside Memorial Partner

Eastside Memorial High School. The Austin School Board is expected to vote Monday on a partner to help run EMHS.
Teodora Erbes/flickr

Update (10:14 p.m.): The Austin School Board Monday night unanimously approved a committee recommendation to partner with Johns Hopkins University to help run Eastside Memorial High School. The decision comes after years of debate between community and school board members over the future of Eastside, a school that has been underperforming for almost a decade.

"I think this is just the beginning," Trustee Gina Hinojosa said at Monday's meeting.

More than 15 community members spoke in support of Johns Hopkins University's Talent Development Secondary program. It was recommended by a committee of parents, teachers and AISD officials. The committee reviewed five proposals before making its recommendation.

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AISD Bond Package
10:05 am
Mon May 6, 2013

Newspapers Split on AISD Bonds: Chronicle For, Statesman Against

A week into early voting, the Statesman came out against AISD's bond ask.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

The Austin American-Statesman editorial board surprised local politics watchers this weekend by voicing opposition to the Austin Independent School District’s $892 million bond package. The daily recommended taxpayers vote against all four bond propositions.

The editorial board said while it’s a strong supporter of public education, it “cannot in good conscience recommend approval of a package that is riddled with questionable cost estimates and expenditures and rushed for inclusion on the May ballot.”

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Education
6:43 pm
Fri May 3, 2013

Update: Committee Recommends AISD Partner with Johns Hopkins to Keep Eastside Memorial Open

Eastside Memorial High School
KUT News

Update:  If there’s one word that sums up Eastside Memorial High School’s recent history, it would be, “change.”

In 2008, its name was changed from Johnston High School to Eastside Memorial.  In 2011, the School Board changed the way the school functioned. It partnered with the charter school company—IDEA—to run the school. Then, in 2012, the School Board changed its mind and canceled that contract. On Monday, the board is expected to vote on another change: a new partner to help AISD run the school.  

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Education
3:48 pm
Fri May 3, 2013

AISD High School Attendance Doesn't Meet Strategic Plan Goals

Attendance is up at most AISD high schools, but still below Strategic Plan goals.
flickr.com/Cinderellasg

A majority of Austin high schools are seeing increased attendance, according to an online data tool from the district. But only three of the district's high schools have attendance rates above the 2012 goal AISD laid out in its Strategic Plan.

Anderson, Bowie and the Liberal Arts and Science Academy are the only high schools in the district with attendance rates over 93 percent. In the district’s Strategic Plan, the goal was attendance rates for all students above that by 2012. 

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Education
5:45 am
Fri May 3, 2013

More Austin High School Students Are Coming to Class

Attendance is up slightly, and even a small improvment means lots more money from the state.
KUT News

An online tool that measures attendance at Austin public schools shows attendance at most of the district’s high schools is up a little. And an increase by even half a percentage point can mean hundreds of thousands of dollars more in state funding.

In Texas, public education funding is linked to attendance rates: Fewer students attending class means less money from the state. 

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Education
11:52 am
Wed May 1, 2013

Who’s Donating Money to the AISD Bond Election Campaign?

AISD isn't allowed to campaign for or against the school bonds, but other Political Action Committees are picking up the slack
Kate McGee, KUT News

By law, the Austin Independent School District can’t advocate for or against the $892 million bond it’s proposed to voters. But that doesn’t mean outside groups haven't expressed support or opposition – specifically with their checkbooks.

In its April campaign finance report, the Vote for Our Kids political action committee reported $30,796 in donations for the bond election. Almost all of the contributors are developers and construction companies, as well as private donors affiliated with those trades.

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Education
5:07 am
Wed May 1, 2013

AISD Bonds: Prop 4 Focuses on Athletics and Fine Arts

AISD's Propsition Four would put money towards academics and athletics.
KUT News

Just over one percent of registered Travis County voters have cast a ballot in the May election so far. Early voting began Monday. The big item on the ballot is the Austin Independent School District’s bond.

Most of Austin ISD's $892 million in bond proposals would put money towards repairs and construction in schools district-wide. But Proposition 4 would allocate $168 million dollars towards academics and athletics, along with facility upgrades to implement those programs.

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Education
6:30 am
Tue April 30, 2013

Should AISD Hold the Bond Package Election in May?

Early voting started Monday for AISD's $892 million bond package.
flickr.com/whiteafrican

Early voting is underway for the $892 million bond proposal from the Austin Independent School District. The district decided to hold the election in May – as it usually does. But now, the Austin City Council decided to move its general elections from May to November. 

With turnout expected to be extremely low, will AISD continue to keep its elections in May?

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Education
12:40 pm
Mon April 29, 2013

AISD Bonds: Money Aims to Relieve Overcrowding

Early voting begins Monday for the $892 million bond proposal from AISD.
KUT News

Early voting for the Austin Independent School District $892 million bond begins Monday. The bond is split into four propositions, based on a variety of projects from systemic repairs to improvements to relieve overcrowding. 

AISD says enrollment has grown by about 1,000 students per year, two to three times faster than the state average. The district is hoping to relieve some of the overcrowding that's come with that growth. Prop 2 would borrow $234 million to do that. Some of it goes toward school security, but most of the money is earmarked for expanding existing schools and building new ones. 

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Education
6:35 pm
Fri April 26, 2013

AISD Bond Language Comes Under Fire From Taxpayer Group

AISD Superintendent Meria Carstarpehn. The district's bond proposition ballot language is drawing criticism from the Travis County Taxpayers Union.
Nathan Bernier, KUT News

An effort to derail the Austin school district’s bond election was unsuccessful Friday.

A Travis County Court judge refused a request for a temporary restraining order to stop the vote. The order was sought by the Travis County Taxpayer Union. The group contends the official ballot language doesn’t say anything about how much each proposition would cost voters. 

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Education
7:30 am
Fri April 26, 2013

'EducaAustin' Radio Show Reaches Out to Hispanic AISD Parents

AISD Spokesman Alex Sanchez. Every Sunday he hosts EducaAustin, a radio show aimed at Hispanic parents in the district.
Kate McGee, KUT News

Sixty percent of students in the Austin school district are Hispanic. And more than half of those students are English language learners with parents who do not speak English or are also learning the language.

That can make it difficult for some parents to stay involved in their children’s education, and AISD is trying to bridge that gap with La Que Buena, 104.3-FM.

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Education
12:22 pm
Thu April 25, 2013

AISD Bonds: Prop 2 Earmarks Money for School Security

Prop 2 puts $23 million towards security, including more cameras and alarm systems.
Flickr user TylerMcQuarrie, bit.ly/15K08Z2

Since the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, school districts across the country are focusing on security. The Austin Independent School District is asking its voters whether it can use some of its $892 million proposed bond package to improve school security.

At $233 million, Proposition Two is the largest of the propositions in the bond package. $23 million of those funds would go toward a variety of security improvements district wide. The largest would be to replace the district’s 20 year-old radio system.

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