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, where she got her bachelor's degree in American Studies and History. 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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Turning The Corner
7:29 am
Fri September 27, 2013

Teachers, Non-Profits Key to Helping Middle School Students in Dove Springs

Leonor Vargas is the director of the Mendez Family Resource Center, which provides services to high needs students and families. She says teachers help the center identify students who need help.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

In Austin’s Dove Springs neighborhood, it’s no secret: the middle school there – Mendez Middle School – has challenges. Before last year, Mendez was rated academically unacceptable and faced the struggles found in many low income schools: low test scores, little parental involvement, and chronic absenteeism.

In many cases, the burden of maintaining order at Mendez falls on the shoulders of teachers. Many start their day corralling kids inside the building and greeting them at the front door.

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Sex Education
4:01 pm
Thu September 26, 2013

What's Next for Austin's Sex Ed Program Targeting Teen Pregnancy?

After a steady increase in students becoming pregnant in AISD, the district partnered with Lifeworks and Planned Parenthood to implement programs in middle and high schools to curb pregnancy. Halfway through, pregnancies in the district are down 21%.
Janine, flickr.com

Between 2005 and 2010, Austin school district saw the number of pregnant students in the district steadily increase. By the end of the 2009 school year, the district identified 400 students who were pregnant or who were already parents. (The district doesn't separate whether or not the student parents are male or female.)

In 2010, AISD partnered with Planned Parenthood and the non-profit Lifeworks to implement a program aimed at preventing teen pregnancy in middle and high schools. 

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Education
4:45 pm
Fri September 20, 2013

Are Austin Teachers Punishing Students by Denying Them Time to Exercise?

Students in Texas must get 135 minutes a week of physical activity. In Austin, students have gym once or twice a week, which means classroom teachers must make up the other required time.
flickr.com/andrewmalone

An Austin school board member is concerned students aren’t meeting state mandated physical education requirements.

In Texas, elementary students must get 135 minutes of physical education per week. But students only have gym class once or twice a week – which means teachers must ensure students make up the rest of that mandated time outside of gym class.

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Education
1:39 pm
Fri September 20, 2013

Texans Will See Big Changes to the GED Test in January

In January, Texans who drop out of school can start taking their GED test online.
Daniel Reese for KUT News

Following a national trend digitizing high school equivalency tests, Texas will only offer the GED test online come January. The State Board of Education approved some final changes to the new testing process Thursday as the state prepares for the transition.

The test will be entirely online, which means students need to be more computer literate.

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Guns in Schools
10:21 am
Mon September 16, 2013

Texas Schools Deciding Whether to Allow Armed Marshals on Campus

Under a new law, Texas school districts can designate a trained school marshal to carry a concealed weapon on campus.
flickr.com/robertnelson

The controversial policy of allowing armed marshals at public schools could soon be a reality for some Texas school districts. Under a new law passed during the most recent legislative session, school administrators may designate a trained employee to act as school marshal, authorized to carry a concealed handgun to respond in emergency situations.

Gov. Rick Perry signed House Bill 1009, also known as the Protection of Children Act, into law this June. Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas, penned the bill in response to the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut.

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University of Texas
12:07 pm
Thu September 12, 2013

UT Austin to Move Forward with New Engineering Center

UT Austin's plan to build a new Engineering Education and Resource Center hit a roadblock when lawmakers failed to pass Tuition Revenue Bonds this past session. But the UT System approved a new funding plan Thursday.
KUT News

The University of Texas Board of Regents has approved a new plan to fund the new Engineering Education and Research Center at UT Austin.  The change to the funding plan was necessary after lawmakers failed to approve bonds for capitol projects in the most recent legislative session.

UT Austin had requested $95 million in Tuition Revenue Bonds to use toward the new facility. Now, UT can borrow up to $150 million from the UT System's Revenue Financing System to make up that difference. The rest of the money will come from $5 million in current funds and $50 million in gifts.

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University of Texas
4:51 pm
Wed September 11, 2013

UT President Powers Delivers State of the University

President Powers says UT Austin depends on philanthropy to achieve the school's future goals. He gave the State of the University Wednesday at UT.
University of Texas

UT Austin President Bill Powers delivered the annual State of the University address Wednesday afternoon, touting the accomplishments and acknowledging challenges of the past year as a new academic year begins.

President Powers also acknowledged what he considers the vital importance of private donors to achieve the university’s future goals. He expressed appreciation for the legislature’s $25 million increase in state funding over the next two years, but says it still falls short of what’s necessary to run a top tier university.

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City Budget
3:21 pm
Wed September 11, 2013

Austin City Budget Restores $1 Million for Youth Programs

After founding Prime Time, an after-school progrma, Austin Interfaith fought for its continued funding.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

This week, the Austin City Council approved a $3.3 billion budget of for the upcoming fiscal year, which starts in October.

As part of the deal, they increased funding for youth programs by over $1 million. That includes an increase in the Austin School District afterschool program, Prime Time, which was started by Austin Interfaith in the 1990s. 

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September 11
11:05 am
Wed September 11, 2013

Teaching 9/11 to Texas Students Who Don't Remember - Or Weren't Yet Born That Day

A photo from the children's book, "Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey," by Maira Kalman
Maira Kalman

Remembering the events of September 11th is easy for most Americans. It's a fresh, sometimes painful memory for some. 

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Child Protective Services
8:52 am
Mon September 9, 2013

Child Protective Services Launches Foster Care Redesign

Child Protective Services has launched a program, Foster Care Redesign, in North and West Texas (Regions 2 & 9) on this map. It's goal is to keep foster children closer to their communities.
DFPS

The state’s child welfare agency is launching a new program aimed at improving the outcomes of children in foster care in Texas. The project, called Foster Care Redesign, has been in the works for years. 

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Business
2:39 pm
Fri September 6, 2013

Heard of 'Buy One, Give One?' This Austin Company Helps Pay For a Child's Education Instead

Austin-based ESPEROS sells canvas backpacks and totes. The company donates half its profits to developing countries to pay for a child's education for one year.
ESPEROS

Austin resident and UT grad Oliver Shuttlesworth had just returned home from a series of trips to Central America, but he couldn’t shake the stories he heard from people in the region.

“As I visited with the families I was working with, I heard a recurring theme: the desire for their children to receive an education and to create a better future than they enjoyed themselves,” Shuttlesworth says.

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School Attendance
10:24 am
Thu September 5, 2013

Missing One Day of School Costs Your District 38 Dollars

Central Texas school districts and organizations are relaunching a campaign to increase attendance rates at schools.
flickr.com/alamosbasement

The local non-profit, E3 Alliance, has relaunched its Missing School Matters campaign as the new academic year gets underway. It's reminding students why it's important to go to class, especially in Central Texas, where students miss more days of school than their peers across the state in every grade.

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West Plant Explosion
11:32 am
Tue September 3, 2013

VIDEO: The First Festival in West, Texas Since the Explosion

Credit Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Residents of the town of West, Texas came out over the weekend to enjoy their annual Labor Day festival – Westfest. With plenty of beer, sausage, polka music and rides, it’s a celebration of the town’s Czech heritage. 

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Turning the Corner
6:35 am
Fri August 30, 2013

Nearly Half of Dove Springs Elementary Students Are Overweight

Nu Champeng and her son Bodhi, play on the playground at Perez Elementary. Childhood obesity is an issue affecting Dove Springs.
Filipa Rodrigues, KUT News

The Dove Springs neighborhood in southeast Austin runs from Ben White to William Cannon, bound by Montopolis and Pleasant Valley on the east, and Interstate 35 on the west. After the Bergstrom Air Force Base closed in the 1990's, it became a community marked by juvenile gang violence, drugs and poverty. While some of that crime has dissipated, Dove Springs still has one of the highest reported crime rates in Travis County. And two-thirds of the neighborhood population is Hispanic, making it one of the most rapidly growing immigrant neighborhoods in Austin. 

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Fort Hood Shootings
10:58 am
Thu August 29, 2013

Hasan Faces Lengthy Appeals Process Before Execution

Hasan has been sentenced to death for killing 13 and wounding more than 30 people at Fort Hood in 2009. But his trial faces an automatic appeals process, which could take years.
Landov Landov

The jury in the court martial of Nidal Hasan sentenced him to death Wednesday. He was convicted of killing 13 people and wounding more 32 in the 2009 shooting at Fort Hood. But legal experts say it could still be years before the death sentence is carried out – if at all.

Under military law, Hasan’s case will automatically be appealed because he received a death sentence, even if he doesn’t want to appeal.

But before the case goes to an appeals court, the commanding general of Fort Hood must approve the findings and the sentence. That alone will take a while.

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Education
10:57 am
Tue August 27, 2013

How Travis Heights Elementary Could Change Schools in Austin

Travis Heights School gives teachers and administrators more autonomy in making decisions on lesson plans, food choices and the school's budget.
flickr.com/nabewise

More than 86,000 students in the Austin Independent School District returned to school this week. But at Travis Heights Elementary School, teachers, parents and students are starting a new chapter in the school’s history as the first in-district charter school in Austin. 

If the model catches on, the school could also change how things in the district work, with teachers and administrators having more control over curriculum, scheduling, the budget and even what's served in the cafeteria. 

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Fort Hood Shootings
4:53 pm
Fri August 23, 2013

Hasan Guilty on All Counts in Fort Hood Shooting Trial

Maj. Hasan during closing arguments. A jury is deliberating whether he is guilty of 13 premeditated murders and 32 attempted premeditated murders at Fort Hood in 2009.
Brigitte Woosley

Update: Army Maj. Nidal Hasan has been found guilty on all counts of premeditated murder and attempted murder in the 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood. Hasan now faces either life in prison or the death penalty. Sentencing begins Monday. 

Army psychiatrist Hasan acted as his own attorney in the case – but he did so little in his own defense that his standby counsel expressed concern that he was purposely seeking the death penalty.

Sentencing begins Monday. The sentencing phase runs similarly to a trial. The 13 members of the military panel will decide Hasan’s sentence—not the judge. Prosecutors  are expected to call 19 witnesses, including family members. They’re expected to talk about the grief they experienced losing a loved one.

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Fort Hood Shootings
3:15 pm
Thu August 22, 2013

Jury Deliberating in Fort Hood Shooting Trial

Maj. Nidal Hasan (foreground, right), at his trial in Killeen, Texas yesterday. Closing arguments in Hasan’s trial are expected today.
Brigitte Woosley

Update: The jury in the court martial of Major Nidal Hasan has begun to deliberate. They're considering whether or not Hasan is guilty of 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of premeditated attempted murder in the Fort Hood shooting in 2009. 

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Education
5:01 pm
Wed August 21, 2013

AISD Could Offer Domestic Partner Benefits by the End of the Year

After postponing domestic partner benefits, AISD now says they will ofter domestic partner benefits to all qualified individuals based on a new set of criteria
KUT News

Austin ISD Superintendent Meria Carstarphen says the district hopes to offer open enrollment for domestic partner benefits as soon as this fall.

"While we still have a few obstacles to overcome, legal and otherwise, a clear path forward has emerged,” Carstarphen said in a recorded video as part of AISD's annual convocation on Wednesday. “Employees will have the opportunity to add new, qualifying individuals to their coverage as part of a separate enrollment period as soon as October 2013."

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AISD
2:38 pm
Wed August 21, 2013

AISD's School For Young Men is On Hold Indefinitely

AISD had plans to open a school for young men at its Alternative Learning Center. But the failure of a bond proposition has tabled the project.
Jillian Schantz Patrick for KUT News

Public school begins next week in Austin, but Austin ISD's plan to open a School for Young Men remains in limbo. The district faces many hurdles to open the school, following the failure a bond proposition this May.

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