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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Education
4:23 pm
Mon July 1, 2013

UT System Disappointed By Student Loan Interest Rate Jump

Starting July 1, student loan interest rates will double to 6.8% for new borrowers.
courtesy flickr.com/thisisbossi

Students planning to borrow money from the federal government to pay for college will now pay 6.8 percent interest on their Stafford student loans.

Today, UT System Chancellor Francisco G. Cigarroa expressed his disappointment with the increase, which effectively doubled the percentage of interest rates on student loans. 

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Politics
1:01 pm
Mon July 1, 2013

U.S. Supreme Court Says Silence Can Be Used Against You in Trial

The court's decision in Salinas v Texas means a suspects silence during questioning can be used against them if the suspect doesn't specifically invoke his or her 5th amendment rights.
wallyg/flickr

With all the coverage of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions last week regarding affirmative action, the Voting Rights Act and same-sex marriage, it’s not surprising some of the court’s other decisions didn’t receive as much attention, including one case that originated in Texas: Salinas v Texas.

 That decision is expected to have a big impact on the rights of criminal suspects on trial. 

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Politics
8:00 am
Sun June 30, 2013

How This Week's 3 Big Supreme Court Decisions Affect Texas

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on three cases this week that affect Texans.

This week was a busy one for the U.S. Supreme Court. It ruled on cases involving three major issues: affirmative action, same sex marriage and voting rights. 

All three of these cases have national implications, but they also mean changes for Texans, too. 

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Education
10:00 pm
Fri June 28, 2013

Video: The Summer Camp That Prepares Texas Students for Disaster

This week, forty five Texas high school students participated in the Texas School Safety Center's third annual Youth Preparedness Camp. It's a week-long camp in Kerrville, Texas, aimed to teach students how to respond to emergencies and  increase disaster preparedness in Texas communities. 

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Politics
5:47 pm
Fri June 28, 2013

Changes to the Voting Rights Act: What Texans Need to Know

The Supreme Court struck down a section of the Voting Rights Act, which could lead to less scrutiny in redistricting maps in the future
flickr.com/60064824@N03

On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its second big decision of the week, striking down part of the Voting Rights Act. Supporters praised the decision, calling it a step forward in eliminating antiquated aspects of the law. Opponents of the decision say it makes it easier to discriminate against minorities.

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Breaking
12:31 pm
Wed June 26, 2013

DOMA Struck Down: What’s Next for Same-Sex Couples in Texas?

A rally at the Texas Capitol in May, when the U.S. Supreme Court began hearing the DOMA and Prop 8 cases.
Tyler Pratt, KUT News

Update: The U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings on two same-sex marriage cases today means those unions will now be recognized by the federal government. In separate cases, the court ruled the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, and the state of California can now resume efforts to legalize same sex marriage.

But neither of these rulings will directly affect Texas residents. 

“The ruling today was limited in the sense it didn’t extend to strike down defense of marriage acts that exist on state level," says Chuck Smith, executive director of Equality Texas.

Texas’ own Defense Against Marriage Act will remain on the books. Gov. Rick Perry signed the law in 2003.  In 2005, the state legislature also passed a constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage. If that amendment were repealed, it would need two-thirds approval by the state House and Senate. It would then go to voters for final approval. 

Same sex marriage is legal in 12 states and the District of Columbia. 

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Voting Rights Act
5:39 pm
Tue June 25, 2013

Voting Rights Act Partially Overturned; Texas Implements Voter ID Law

flickr.com/tabor-roeder

The Supreme Court has overturned a portion of the Voting Rights Act. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott says this morning’s decision means a Texas voter ID law "will take effect immediately." Scroll down for updates. 

The high court struck down Section 4 of the act, which establishes a formula to identify portions of the county (primarily the South) where changes to elections must be approved by the Department of Justice. That was to ensure minority voting rights weren’t infringed upon.

From the court's opinion:

"Coverage today is based on decades-old data and eradicated practices. The formula captures States by reference to literacy tests and low voter registration and turnout in the 1960s and early 1970s. But such tests have been banned for over 40 years. And voter registration and turnout numbers in covered States have risen dramatically."

The court didn’t do away with Section 5 of the act – the portion that allows the Department of Justice to reject state laws it sees as discriminatory. Instead, the court says the new standards should be created, instead of the expanded coverage called for under Section 4.  

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Education
8:17 am
Mon June 24, 2013

How the Supreme Court Could Rule on Affirmative Action at UT

This week, the US Supreme Court is expected to rule on UT v Fisher, the case that questions whether it is constitutional to consider race in the college admissions process.
wallyg/flickr

Update: It turned out the Supreme Court went in an entirely different direction - returning the ruling to a lower court, essentially on a technicality. 

Read more here: Supreme Court Punts on Affirmative Action’s Merits; Returns Ruling to Lower Court

Original Post: This week, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to hand down three major decisions that will affect Texans—including Fisher v. University of Texas.  That case asks the question if it’s constitutional to consider race in the college admissions process.

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LGBT
10:58 am
Thu June 20, 2013

Growing Up Gay and In the Closet: One Austin Woman's Story

LGBTQ Youth are more likely to have suicidal thoughts or behavior than heterosexual youth. A Town Hall will be held tonight to discuss the issue.
flickr.com/mr-pi

Austin resident Alyshia Foster grew up outside Dallas. When she was nine, she started taking medication to deal with depression.

“There had been this festering ugliness and self-hatred and I felt it was killing everything beautiful about it and I didn’t know what it was," Foster said.

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Education
5:47 am
Wed June 19, 2013

Are Schools Investing in Education Technology Properly?

A new study finds states aren't studying the return on investment of education technology, as Eanes ISD hosts iPadpalooza this week.
flickingerbrad/flickr

This week the Eanes School District is holding a conference called iPadpalooza.

Every child in the district has an iPad and schools want to find ways to use them better.

The conference comes as the Center for American Progress released a study that says states don’t know how much investments like these in education technology are actually helping students. 

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Education
9:35 am
Mon June 17, 2013

Why Passing the STAAR Exam Will Get Tougher, Starting Next Year

STAAR Test results released last week show small gains. But as students get used to the test, standards for grading are changing.
Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

STAAR test results released last week show minimal gains compared to 2012. It was the second year students took the new standardized tests, which teachers and administrators say are more rigorous. 

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Education
8:28 am
Fri June 14, 2013

Some Austin Schools Respond to Increasing Asian Population

AISD is using dual language as one way to address the increasing number of Asian students
AISD

The City of Austin estimates Asians and Asian-Americans will exceed the number of African-Americans in the city over next several years, based on new numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau

Overall, the school district reaches out to non-English speaking parents and students by providing translators and handouts printed in multiple languages.

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Education
6:33 pm
Thu June 13, 2013

Austin Schools Respond to Asian Influx

More students in Austin are speaking Vietnamese and Korean, among other languages.
KUT News

Asians and Asian-Americans will outnumber African-Americans in Austin over next several years, according to city estimates based on new numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau. The Austin Independent School District, where students speak 86 languages, is working to accommodate changing demographics.

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Education
6:00 am
Thu June 13, 2013

Central Texas Schools Fight 'Summer Melt'

Barely two-thirds of high school grads in Texas who want to go to college actually make it there.
Jeff Heimsath, KUT News

For many students, that summer between high school graduation and the first year of college is one of anticipation and excitement.

But for others, it can present roadblocks that can lead students to not attend college in the fall. 

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West Plant Explosion
5:04 pm
Wed June 12, 2013

FEMA Denies Rebuilding Aid to West, Texas (Update)

A decimated apartment complex in West, one month after the explosion.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Update: The Federal Emergency Management Agency is refusing to provide money to help rebuild the town of West after April’s deadly fertilizer plant explosion.

FEMA has approved more than $7 million in aid and loans to West residents impacted by the blast, but has denied assistance for things like crisis counseling, legal services, and unemployment assistance.  

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AISD Portable Classrooms
6:54 am
Wed June 12, 2013

What is AISD's Future Plan for Portable Classrooms?

AISD Portable Classroom at Murchison Middle School.
Filipa Rodrigues, KUT News

For at least fifty years, the Austin Independent School District has used portable classrooms as a way to relieve overcrowding. Yesterday, KUT reported more than half of the nearly 650 portables are over 25 years old – some are more than 50 years old. Many teachers and parents say portables conditions are poor.

But what – if anything – can the school district can do about it? 

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AISD Portable Classrooms
6:22 am
Tue June 11, 2013

60 Percent of AISD's Portable Classrooms At Least 25 Years Old

Some of the portable classrooms at Doss Elementary School.
Filipa Rodrigues, KUT News

This past school year, more than 86,000 students in the Austin Independent School District woke up and went to class each day. For a growing number of those children, their learning is happening inside portable classrooms. 

AISD has almost 650 portable classrooms. The district bought most of them in the 1980's and 1990's. But dozens were purchased before that – some as early as 1952. Many teachers and parents say time is taking its toll on what was supposed to be a temporary solution to deal with overcrowding. 

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Education
7:05 am
Thu June 6, 2013

Last Day of School Means No More Students at Allan Elementary Campus

Allan Elementary will be empty next school year as the IDEA charter school moves out of the district.
Nathan Bernier, KUT News

Today is the first day of summer vacation, as the public school year came to a close yesterday in Austin. For students at IDEA Allan Elementary School, a charter school run by IDEA Public Schools, it was the last day of school at that campus. They’ll be leaving behind an empty building and taking with them millions of dollars of future district revenue.

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Education
7:47 pm
Wed June 5, 2013

TEA Commissioner: Eastside Memorial Can Remain Open

Texas Education Commission Michael Williams visiting Eastside Memorial High School earlier this year.
Filipa Rodrigues, KUT News

The state's top education official has approved a plan by Austin Independent School District that will allow Eastside Memorial High School to remain open. The campus had faced closure after years of failing to meet the state's academic benchmarks and after the Austin school board voted to discontinue a contract it had with the South Texas-based charter school operator IDEA that aimed to reverse sagging outcomes. 

Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams made the announcement Wednesday evening at a commencement ceremony for the 129 graduating seniors at Eastside Memorial.

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Education
1:35 pm
Wed June 5, 2013

More Hearings Possible in Texas School Funding Case

Judge John Dietz. He ruled the Texas School Funding system is unconstitutional.
Marjorie Kamys Cotera, Texas Tribune

District Court Judge John Dietz said this morning he will hold a hearing to consider reopening the  Texas School Finance case to weigh the impacts of  changes made to education during the most recent legislative session. 

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