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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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. 
 

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.

Photo by 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%
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.

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:

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.

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.”

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.

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:

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.

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.

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.

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.

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