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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Breaking
9:57 am
Fri November 28, 2014

PHOTOS: Police Searching for Motive of Slain Gunman Who Fired on Austin Buildings

Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo says there were no explosives found on the body of the suspect in this morning's shooting in downtown Austin.
Filipa Rodrigues/KUT

Update 2:40pm: The APD has officially released the name of this morning's shooter: Larry Steve McQuilliams (DOB: 12-13-1964)

Update 2:00pm: Chief Acevedo says the residence of this morning's shooter has been cleared and is safe to enter. The APD and FBI had been slowly examining the apartment in the Barton Hills neighborhood to make sure there were no explosives or traps left to harm law officers. 

Update 10:00 am: Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo says there were no explosives found on the body of the suspect in this morning's shooting in downtown Austin, nor were there any explosives found in the suspect's vehicle. 

At 2:22 a.m., APD started to receive reports of gunfire in multiple locations downtown, including the Mexican Consulate, the federal courthouse, and APD headquarters. Acevedo says the shooting occurred within the span of ten minutes. APD initially believed the suspect also fired shots at the BB&T bank, but later said the suspect did not target the bank. Officers believe more than 100 rounds were fired overall.

According to Acevedo, the officer involved in the shooting was putting away horses from an overnight mounted patrol when he saw the suspect shooting in front of APD headquarters. A source confirms the officer involved is Sgt. Adam Johnson, a 15 year APD veteran. 

"As he held two horses with one hand, he discharged at least one round with a single handed shot," Acevedo says. "That'd be one heck of a shot." Police are still investigating whether the suspect was killed by the officer's bullet or a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Johnson is now on paid administrative leave, which is standard procedure after an officer fires a weapon at another person.

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Education
11:57 am
Fri November 21, 2014

How Exactly Does Texas Approve Public School Textbooks?

The State Board of Education approves a list of textbooks, but what happens before the vote?
Ryan Stanton, Flickr

The Texas State Board of Education usually makes headlines when it adopts new textbooks because of ideological debates about the content. The time is no exception. This week, the board heard testimony from people on the left and right who are concerned about information in proposed social studies textbooks. 

But just how are textbooks chosen in Texas, and who is involved? 

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Austin ISD
2:24 pm
Thu November 6, 2014

After-School Equity: How Austin's Wealthy & Low-Income Schools Fund Extra Programs

Students at Pecan Springs work out a puzzle at the after school program organized by the Andy Roddick Foundation. The Foundation gave $160,000 for the program which provides structure and after school activities to students after federal funding dried up.
Mengwen Cao/KUT News

Public schools in Austin get federal and state money based on students’ attendance and socioeconomic makeup. 

How schools supplement that funding often depends on the private resources available from foundations, non-profits or parents.

While many schools in Austin have robust Parent Teacher Association operations, others, mostly with high percentages of low-income students (so-called Title I schools), struggle to fundraise within their parent base because of a lack of extra resources and time to write grants or work with businesses to bring in money.

Many times, those schools must look to private foundations and non-profits to provide extra programs for students and families. 
 

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SXSW
3:00 pm
Wed November 5, 2014

SXSW Installs Temporary Cameras on Sixth Street to Monitor Crowd Density

After a report said SXSW and the city of Austin could do more to manage growing crowds, SXSW organizers are trying to test out some of the report's recommendations.
flickr.com/photos/zub

Nearly two months after the global design and planning company, Populous, released a report saying South by Southwest and the city of Austin could do more to improve public safety and manage growing crowds at the festival, organizers are trying to test out some of the report’s recommendations.

Last Friday, on Halloween, South by Southwest organizers worked with private businesses on Sixth Street to set up three cameras on the street between Brazos and Red River streets. According to the festival organizers, the goal was to monitor crowd activity because Halloween and the first night of Formula 1 would attract crowds similar to those at SXSW.

According to a lawyer with the festival, SXSW believes the city could do more to deal with issues of overcrowding on Sixth street. 

SXSW would not say where exactly the cameras were located.

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2014 Elections
7:20 am
Wed November 5, 2014

Three Austin School Board Races Headed to Run-Offs

Tonight's board meeting starts at 7 p.m. at AISD headquarters.
Nathan Bernier, KUT News.

Three of the five races are headed to a run-off on Dec. 16.

Here are the final numbers:

District One: 

  • Ted Gordon 34.56%  (Run-Off)
  • David 'D' Thompson 28.45% (Run-Off)
  • P. Kevin Bryant 18.73%
  • Stanton Strickland 18.25%

District Four: 

  • Julie Cowan 77.41% (Winner)
  • Karen Zern Flanagan 22.59%
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2014 Elections
11:00 am
Tue November 4, 2014

For Austin Community College, Three Spending Items and Three Board Seats This Election Day

ACC is asking voters to approve a $386 million bond proposition that would retrofit a new campus at Highland Mall, among other renovations and expansions.
Photo by Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

For the second time in more than forty years, Austin Community College is asking voters to approve a bond package that it says will allow the college to expand its offerings to students in Central Texas.

The $386 million bond proposition would allow ACC to renovate current buildings, build new campuses and expand programming.

Proposition 1: $224 million to retrofit the new campus at Highland Mall, build a campus in Leander (where student enrollment is at capacity) and buy land in southeast Travis County for future campuses.

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2014 Elections
6:30 am
Tue November 4, 2014

Everything You Need to Know About Austin School Board Candidates

There are five Austin ISD school board races up for election.
KUT News

Five of the nine Austin School Board seats are up for grabs this Election Day. Current trustees in four of those five races decided not to run, which means there will be a lot of new faces on the school board.

The turnover comes as the school district is looking for a new superintendent. The new school board will have some major decisions to make in the next few years regarding the district’s budget, overcrowded and under-enrolled schools and declining enrollment district-wide.

Plus, for people who live within the district, most of an individual’s property tax bill goes toward AISD, not the city of Austin, Austin Community College or Travis County. So even if you don’ t have children in the district, or at all, the Austin School Board can still affect your wallet if it decides to raise property taxes.

Here’s a break down of who is running in each race:

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Austin ISD
11:22 am
Mon November 3, 2014

Meet the Groups Backing Candidates in the AISD School Board Campaigns

While some Austin School Board candidates have decided to run without contributions, others have accepted over $80,000 in total in contributions.
Photo by KUT News

When it comes to fundraising, Austin school board candidates run the gamut. Some have chosen not to fundraise at all, while others have received more than $80,000 in donations.

But who are the organizations giving money to candidates in this year’s AISD school board elections?

Before the 2012 school board elections, the local teacher’s union, Education Austin, was the only major donor in Austin school board elections. But that year, a new group entered the fray – a political action committee called Austin Kids First.

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2014 Elections
12:22 pm
Fri October 31, 2014

Lack of Early Voting Locations in Dove Springs Concerns Residents

Credit Photo by KUT News

Isabel Rios is standing outside the Fiesta Supermarket on Stassney Lane, approaching shoppers as they walk toward the store. It's the only early voting location near Dove Springs.

"Hola!" she says, walking toward a couple shoppers. "Hello. Votan? Votan, señoras?” 

Rios is stumping for District 2 city council candidate Edward Reyes at Fiesta, the closest early voting location to the Dove Springs neighborhood. She and Reyes say their job has turned from campaigning to encouraging people to vote at all. 

“Just talking and encouraging people to vote," Rios says. "Trying to engage people as we can.”

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2014 Elections
11:40 am
Mon October 27, 2014

Austin School Board Races Face Obscurity on a Long, Crowded Ballot

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

Early voting continues this week in races ranging from governor to Texas Supreme Court Justice to Austin City Council to school board, a race that some say has been drowned out by some of the big ticket items on the crowded Election Day ballot.

A small patch of grass near a bus stop on Oltorf Street, near Lamar Boulevard, is surrounded by campaign signs –Adler for Mayor, Chris Riley for Council District 9, Dan Buda for District 5, Fred McGhee for District 3 – but one would be hard-pressed to find a school board candidate’s sign.

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Austin ISD
3:59 pm
Wed October 22, 2014

Who Is Running for the Austin School Board?

There are five Austin ISD school board races up for election in November.
Photo by KUT News

Early voting is underway and while state and city races make up most of the very long ballot, many people will see at least one Austin ISD School Board race at the bottom. There are five school board races this November. KUT's Nathan Bernier sat down with KUT's education reporter Kate McGee to talk about the candidates in each race. 

District One and At-Large District Nine:

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Austin Community College
10:41 am
Wed October 22, 2014

ACC Hopes to Tackle Nursing Shortage With Bachelor's Degree Program

Credit Spencer Selvidge/KUT

Austin Community College wants to offer graduates with an associate’s degree in nursing a chance to earn a bachelor of science in nursing.
The proposal comes as more healthcare providers increasingly require nurses to have more advanced degrees and the state deals with a nursing shortage.

The program would let students with an associate’s degree take 10 extra courses to receive a bachelor’s in nursing. Studies show facilities that have more nurses with baccalaureate degrees often have better patient outcomes, and the Institute of Medicine is recommending 80 percent of bedside staff at hospitals have a bachelor’s in nursing by the year 2020.

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Austin ISD
8:55 am
Tue October 21, 2014

What's Next in the Search for Austin ISD's New Superintendent?

Interim Superintendent Dr. Paul Cruz took over for departing Superintendent Meria Carstarphen, who left in April to lead Atlanta's public schools.
Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT

The Austin Independent School District is taking steps to pick its next superintendent. Interim Superintendent Dr. Paul Cruz took over the job in April, when former Superintendent Meria Carstarphen left to lead the district in Atlanta.

The deadline for candidates to apply was yesterday, and the district looks to begin a vetting process that will culminate in a confirmation of the next superintendent before the legislature meets in January.

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Del Valle ISD
1:53 pm
Mon October 20, 2014

Del Valle ISD's Proposition Looks to Build 2 New Elementary Schools

The Del Valle Independent School District looks to fund two new elementary schools with some of the funds from a proposed $134 million bond proposal.
Credit Courtesy of Del Valle ISD

You might have heard lot about several bond propositions on the ballot, specifically Austin's $1 billion bond to pay for rail and road projects, but voters in the Del Valle School District are also deciding on a $134 million bond proposition.

The proposition looks to fund improvements, including everything from a new concession stand at the district's football stadium to buses to a pair of new elementary schools. The proposed projects may cover a broad swath of operational needs, but the proposition ultimately looks to get ahead of the district's future growth in student population.

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Austin ISD
1:41 pm
Fri October 17, 2014

Austin School Board's At-Large Candidates Discuss Budget, Teacher Contracts in Forum

Three of the five candidates for the Austin School Board's at-large spot met last night.
Credit Photo by Nathan Bernier, KUT News

Three of the five candidates for the at-large Austin School Board seat discussed teacher pay, magnet programs and the superintendent search at a forum last night, but many of the candidates’ answers focused on the budget.

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Austin Community College
2:16 pm
Wed October 15, 2014

ACC's $386 Million Propositions Look to Expand, Renovate Campuses

ACC's propositions look to increase funding to campuses like its Highland Mall campus.
Photo by Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

With Austin's transportation bond, Prop 1, and Texas' additional transportation bond, also called Prop 1, garnering all the contention and headlines ahead of Election Day, it's easy to forget about other, less flashy bond propositions.

Austin Community College's three bond and tax propositions may not be high-profile, but they're not cheap either. If approved, the community college's proposed bonds would bring in nearly $400 million to fund expansion and renovations and would give ACC the ability to raise the cap on its tax rate.

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UT Austin
12:01 am
Wed October 15, 2014

UT Law Receives $1 Million Gift for Pro Bono Program

The UT Law school received one million dollars to support the school's Pro Bono program.
KUT News

The UT Law School has received a $1 million gift to support its Pro Bono program, which provides students with first hand experience while also helping people who can’t afford a lawyer.

The money was donated by Richard and Ginni Mithoff of Houston. The program will now be named after them.

“Every student who comes to the University of Texas is helped in being here by the taxpayer," says Ward Farnsworth, Dean of the Law School. "We’re a public law school and we think that creates obligations. So when a student comes out of UT they’re not going out to lead a great career, but they’re also dedicated to finding ways they can give back.” 

Farnsworth says the school encourages each student to sign a pledge to provide 50 hours of free legal work during their time in law school.

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Austin ISD
1:44 pm
Tue October 14, 2014

Austin School Board Talks Opening Up Public Comment at Meetings

Parents say the process to comment publicly at Austin School Board meetings is often arduous, and that members don't have an open dialogue with concerned parents.
Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT

Changes may be coming to how the community is invited to communicate with the Austin School Board. Some say the current process is too onerous on working parents, that board members and parents don’t have a direct line of communication and that the board should be more available to parents district-wide.

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Austin City Limits
8:09 am
Mon October 13, 2014

Will the New City Council Be Open to Fewer Zilker Park Closures?

Events like Austin City Limits close Zilker Park for weeks at a time, and some say the city needs to work with organizers to reduce closures.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUTX

This year’s Austin City Limits festival is over, but the Great Lawn at Zilker Park will remain closed for about a month, leaving enough time to remove stages, sod the lawn and complete other post-festival maintenance. But, after that, the lawn will close again ahead of the Trail of Lights, and the park will close again in January.

Austinites, especially those living near the park, have often complained about the traffic, crowds and park closures that come with the festival.

But, will a new, geographically-representative city council be as willing to make accommodations for special events?

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Austin ISD
10:05 am
Fri October 10, 2014

Austin ISD School Board Candidates Say There's a 'Lack of Trust' in School District

School board candidates in Districts One and Four said the public has lost its faith in the school district.
KUT News

Austin School Board candidates in North Austin met last night in the first of three forums held by the League of Women Voters.  There are two candidates running in District Four, which includes Austin’s Northwest Hills neighborhoods and four candidates running in District One.

While the candidates all had different ideas, candidates all agreed on one thing: The public doesn’t trust the school district, which is one of the reasons, they say, the district is seeing declining enrollment, especially in East Austin schools.

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