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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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.

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.

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.

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.

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?

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.

Nathan Bernier/KUT News

The number of student discipline cases filed in Texas juvenile courts dropped 83 percent in one year, according to the state's Office of Court Administration. Officials say the drop is related to two bills passed by Texas lawmakers last legislative session, SB 393 and SB 1114, which allowed students' behavioral issues to be handled internally, rather than ticketing students and adjudicating behavior in courts.

“We were expecting a drop,” said David Slayton, director of the Office of Court Administration at a joint Public Education and Juvenile Justice hearing at the Texas Capitol Wednesday. “I don’t think we were expecting that significant of a drop in the first year. It’s quite astonishing.”

Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT

Austin ISD Interim Superintendent Paul Cruz highlighted the positive during the annual State of the District address on Monday, but he didn’t ignore the district’s problems. 

Cruz called for community involvement from non-profits and foundations to the city of Austin to address challenges.

KUT News

In 2013, the number of sexual assaults reported on or near UT Austin’s campus increased only slightly—three more cases were reported than the year before. That’s according to preliminary numbers from UT’s Annual Security Report, which was released this week. 

It's important to note that the numbers aren't likely to be an accurate representation of the number of actual assaults, since sexual assault is an historically underreported crime.

Last year's increase in sexual assault reports might not seem like a big one, but sources say next year’s report will be different.

UT couldn’t provide numbers for 2014, so far. But anecdotally, they say the university has seen an uptick in reports since January. 

flickr.com/jasonahowie

The number of reported sexual assaults at UT Austin last year saw a slight increase from the previous year.

In a report, school officials say the crime remains underreported given the size of the student population on campus, but also expressed concern about the increase in stalking incidents on campus.

Photo by Liang Shi for KUT News

Dealing with a sexual assault is a traumatic process. Especially on college campuses, many victims are unsure of what to do or where to turn, and it can be overwhelming. 

As sexual assault moves further into public discussion, KUT is taking a look at how UT-Austin deals with sexual assault on campus. Today, we’re focusing on the reporting process, which is aimed at helping victims in the wake of sexual assault grapple with the legal, personal and academic fallout.

Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT

Three actors are standing in a room in UT’s Counseling and Mental Health center, talking about sex.

It’s part of a performance called “Get Sexy, Get Consent," a series of skits put on by the Theatre for Dialogue program that are performed in front of everyone from freshmen at orientation to new athletes.

The program seeks to educate students on sexual assault in what's called the "red zone" – the peak reporting time between the first day of school and Thanksgiving, when reports of sexual assault reach their peak on many college campuses in the United States.

It's part of a larger effort by the University of Texas to prevent sexual assault amid national concern that many cases go unreported.

Photo by KUT News.

More of last year’s UT Austin freshmen returned to campus, earned better grades and passed more classes than any other class on record. And the university says it’s because of a focus on freshmen. UT is giving struggling students extra services and identifying at-risk students at orientation. It's part of UT Austin President Bill Powers' goal to get four-year graduation rates up to 70 percent within five years.

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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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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