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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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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Education
3:32 pm
Wed July 23, 2014

Texas Wants to Push New Teacher Evaluation Rolllout Back Another Year

Commissioner Michael Williams on a tour of Eastside Memorial High School in 2013. He sent a letter to federal education leaders Wednesday asking for another year to monitor a new teacher evaluation system and a No Child Left Behind waiver.
Filipa Rodrigues/KUT

Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams wants an additional year to study a new state teacher evaluation system. The additional period would delay the official roll out for two years.

Commissioner Williams wrote a letter to federal education officials Wednesday, where he also requested the federal government extend a waiver from No Child Left Behind requirements.

In a statement, Williams said:

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AISD
11:01 am
Wed July 23, 2014

Photos: Inside AISD's New Performing Art Center & Jaime Padron Elementary

A look at a corridor in the new Jaime D. Padron Elementary School in North Austin.
Mengwen Cao/KUT News

Construction continues on two Austin school district buildings that are set to open this academic school year. The two sites – a performing arts center in the Mueller development and Jaime D. Padron Elementary School near Rundberg Lane and U.S. Highway 183 – will meet the needs of Austin's expanding population.

The new performance arts center isn’t expected to be complete until November, with grand opening events in January of next year. But the shell of the 1,200-seat auditorium is already visible. The center will house everything from performance and rehearsal rooms, to a recording studio and a kiln for visual art.

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Education
8:25 am
Mon July 21, 2014

Akins High School Summer Camp Offers Students a Bridge into Computer Sciences

Campers Chris Folwick(left) and Jorge Sepulveda play the Connect Four game they've created with more than 2,000 lines of code. It's part of the STEMbridge camp that teaches students about computer science.
Credit Kate McGee, KUT News

Instead of going to a typical summer camp, this summer Chris Folwick and Jorge Sepulveda are crunching some numbers.

But Folwick and Sepulveda couldn't be happier. The two Akins High School students are a part of the STEMbridge program, which allows students to learn coding and develop useful computer science skills in a comprehensive four-week course.

This is the first summer the school has partnered with Austin nonprofit STEMed Labs to bring comprehensive, year-round computer science courses to the high school. It's put on with the help of a grant from the KDK Harmon Foundation.

Folwick and Sepulveda are playing Connect Four, but you won’t hear them playing with pieces. They’ve developed the game on the computer – by writing code.

For the past four weeks, the students have learned the basics of coding, but they say there were less computers than they thought there would be.

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UT Austin
5:44 pm
Wed July 16, 2014

UT Regent Investigation Focuses Less on Wallace Hall, More on Powers’ Resignation

UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa told state lawmakers asking UT-Austin President Bill Powers to resign was in the "best interest of the university."
Marjorie Kamys Cotera, Texas Tribune

In what's become the never-ending story of state higher education news, the Texas House Transparency Committee continued to hash out details of the fractured relationship between the UT System Board of Regents and UT-Austin leadership Wednesday, as it investigates the actions of UT Regent Wallace Hall.

The committee is deciding if it should file impeachment proceedings against Hall, who some believe abused his powers as regent, but Wednesday's meeting also focused on last week's agreement for UT Austin President Bill Powers to resign at the end of the 2014-2015 school year.

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Affirmative Action
3:35 pm
Tue July 15, 2014

UT Affirmative Action Policies Stand in Fisher Ruling

flickr.com/ejmc

In a two to one opinion, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld UT-Austin's affirmative action policies – the subject of Supreme Court case Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin. You can read the decision here.

In a 2008 case, white student Abigail Fisher was not admitted into the university. She sued, claiming UT had discriminated against her because of her race. The case made it all the way to the Supreme Court, but the high court remanded the case to the circuit court last year, finding that when the court originally heard the case it didn't apply proper scrutiny to UT's affirmative action policies ­– as it was supposed to under a 2003 affirmative action case.

Read more background on the case here: So What Exactly Happened with Fisher v. University of Texas?

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