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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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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Education
11:00 am
Wed June 5, 2013

AISD Likely to Put Domestic Partner Benefits on Hold

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

AISD says it will likely not grant health benefits to domestic partners of employees. The school district will wait until a federal court decides on the issue.

This is after AISD announced in March it would extend health benefits to domestic partners, which includes same sex and unmarried couples.

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Education
7:01 am
Wed June 5, 2013

Officials: Restored State Education Cuts Won't Help AISD

AISD's 2014 Budget is expected to have a $30 million dollar shortfall and the public education cuts restored by the 2013 legislature aren't expected to help close the gap. The district expects to use reserves to make up the difference.
KUT News

AISD's Chief Finance Officer, Nicole Conley, presented a revised proposed $879 million  budget for the next fiscal year Monday night.

She said although Texas public schools may be getting $3.9 billion dollars restored from the $5.4 billion state lawmakers cut in 2011, AISD isn’t expecting much of a benefit locally from the partial funding restoration. 

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Education
8:12 am
Tue June 4, 2013

AISD Trustees Approve Plan for Eastside Vertical Team

TEA Commissioner Williams is expected to make a decision soon on whether to accept the district's proposal.
Filipa Rodrigues, KUT News

The Austin Independent School District Board approved a plan last night for the elementary and middle schools that feed into Eastside Memorial High.

Eastside hasn’t been meeting academic standards and could be shut down. In an effort to keep it open, the board approved a partnership with Johns Hopkins last month.  But that program’s plan didn’t include an outline of what should happen at feeder schools.

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Education
7:11 am
Mon June 3, 2013

Threat of Deportation Haunts Immigrant Students

Some advocates at Saturday's Immigration Forum.
Kate McGee, KUT News

More than 100 Austin parents, teachers and community members gathered at Mendez Middle School Saturday for an immigration forum sponsored by the teachers union, Education Austin. Advocacy groups and organizations provided information to undocumented immigrants about a pathway to citizenship and the latest on immigration reform.

It's a process that advocates say can stress out many parents. But it can be a stressor on children as well.

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Austin
5:35 am
Fri May 31, 2013

LGBT Elders Face Extra Challenges

flickr.com/mr-pi

LGBT Pride Month begins June 1. While many situations are unique to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender experience, you many think aging is not. But there are increased risks for LGBT seniors. 

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Education
5:34 pm
Tue May 28, 2013

Tuition Revenue Bond Bill is Refiled in Special Session

A state senator has re-filed a bill that authorizes Tuition Revenue Bonds for capitol projects at public universities.
Filipa Rodrigues, KUT News

As heard on KUT 90.5 FM

State Sen. Kel Seliger has re-filed a bill in the special session allowing state universities to issue Tuition Revenue Bonds for capital projects.

However, lawmakers wouldn't be able to take up the issue unless Gov. Rick Perry adds it to the list of  topics for the special session.

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Texas
3:17 pm
Mon May 27, 2013

Sergeant Major of the Army Comes to Texas for Memorial Day

Sergeant Major of the Army Ramond F. Chandler III at the Memorial Day ceremony in Georgetown, Tex. Monday morning.
Filipa Rodrigues, KUT News

Over a thousand Central Texans gathered on Monday to honor local men and women who lost their lives in service to the U.S. at the Georgetown-Williamson County Veterans Memorial in the Sun City Community Center.

At the memorial, the Texas Army National Guard’s 36th Infantry Division Band played for residents and veterans, with Sergeant Major of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III attending the ceremony as a special guest.

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Education
12:13 am
Mon May 27, 2013

Two Big Education Bills Gain Approval from Texas Legislature

The Texas House and Senate passed committee reports on House Bill 5 and Senate Bill 2 on May 26, 2013.
morguefile.com

House and Senate members exchanged high fives and congratulations Sunday night, as they approved  conference committee reports on two bills impacting public education across Texas.

One bill increases the cap on charter schools, while the other reduces the number of end-of-course exams in public high schools.

Both bills are now heading to Gov. Rick Perry's desk for his signature.

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Education
11:21 am
Fri May 24, 2013

After Oklahoma Tornado, Austin Campuses Examine Storm Plans

Even though Austin isn't in the so-called 'Tornado Alley', UT and AISD both have plans in place in case of a tornado
flickr.com/inventorchris2

The recent tornado in Oklahoma and the shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut last year have increased people’s awareness of emergency management at schools. 

At the University of Texas’s Police Building, the Emergency Operation Center is quiet right now. But David Cronk, UT’s Emergency Preparedness director, says when there’s a threat or major event, the room can get pretty crowded.

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Education
5:25 pm
Thu May 23, 2013

Students Need to Be More Active, Report Says

A teachers advocate says prepping for standardized testing takes time away from physical activity.
Rune Mathisen, Texas Tribune

Students should be getting 60 minutes a day of physical activity, according to a new report from the Institute of Medicine. That exercise could happen before, during or after school.

The study also recommends the U.S. Department of Education declare physical education a core subject.

Bill Kohl, who led the committee that wrote the report, says physical activity improves learning in the classroom.

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Education
12:33 pm
Thu May 23, 2013

Update: Webb Middle, Elementary Schools Lockdown Lifted


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Update: The lockdown at Webb Middle and primary schools has been lifted, according to AISD officials. Schools will resume a regular schedule. APD was not immediately available to confirm whether or not the suspect has been apprehended.

Original Story (12:18 p.m.): Webb Middle and primary schools are on lock down as Austin Police search for a possibly armed suspect in the St. Johns/I-35 area, according to Austin Independent School District.

The man is suspected to be connected to a woman who tried to cash a forged check this morning on the 6400 block of US-290.

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Education
5:10 pm
Tue May 21, 2013

Early TAKS Scores Up at Eastside Memorial

A TAKS Test. Unofficial data shows improvements among 11th graders at Eastside Memorial
KUT News

Preliminary standardized test scores for this school year show improvements in multiple subjects at Eastside Memorial High School – a school that has had a history of failure going back nearly a decade.

According to unofficial data presented to Eastside Memorial teachers this week, 90 percent of students passed the TAKS end of year exam in English and Language Arts. That’s a nearly 20 percent jump from last year. 

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Education
3:53 pm
Tue May 21, 2013

Bill to Ban Sale of Sugary Drinks in Schools Heads to Perry's Desk

A bill that would ban the sale of sugary drinks in elementary, middle schools is heading to Gov. Perry's desk
Juan Carlos/Flickr

Middle and elementary school students craving a Coke during the school day may be in trouble.

A bill that would ban the sale of sugary drinks in Texas middle and elementary schools is heading to Gov. Rick Perry’s desk for final approval.

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Education
12:27 pm
Tue May 21, 2013

AISD Board Approves Contract with Eastside Memorial Partner

Superintendent Meria Carstarphen at a press conference. At Monday's Board Meeting, she expressed concerns about a partnership.
KUT News

The Austin School Board Monday night approved a contract with Johns Hopkins University to implement its program — Talent Development Secondary — at Eastside Memorial High School. The decision comes after AISD canceled a contract with a charter school company to run an elementary school that fed into the high school.

The contract now goes to the Texas Education Commissioner for final approval. Although the vote was unanimous, Superintendent Meria Carstarphen questioned if the commissioner would approve the contract.

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