Laura Rice

Producer, Morning Edition

Laura first joined the KUT team in April 2012. She now works for the statewide program Texas Standard as a reporter and producer. Laura came to KUT from the world of television news. She has worn many different hats as an anchor, reporter and producer at TV stations in Austin, Amarillo and Toledo, OH. Laura is a proud graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia, a triathlete and enjoys travel, film and a good beer. She enjoys spending time with her husband and pets.

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Photo by KUT News

A new report shows 38 percent of U.S. students who were enrolled in postsecondary classes during the Fall of 2011 semester were adults (under the definition of the study, an adult was at least 25 by October 15). That percentage is down slightly from 2010 but went up by more than 4 percent from 2009 to 2010. 

The study by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center shows adults looking for education are consistently choosing to enroll on a full-time basis over part-time. Adult students also prefer 4-year, public institutions. The center looks at data from more than 3,300 college institutions—representing 93 percent of student enrollment.

Meanwhile, the average age of a student at the University of Texas at Austin (22.5) is actually getting younger. 

Photo by KUT News

AISD Budget Meeting Tonight

The Austin ISD Board of Trustees will meet tonight to discuss the 2013 budget, and policy on consulting with employee unions.

Cap Metro staff has proposed separate contractors for regualr bus routes and its paratransit services, pictured above.
Photo courtesy Flickr user i-Ride Capital Metro

Today, Capital Metro staff met with the agency Board of Directors to make recommendations on new contractor bids. Monday, the board will make a final decision.

These are the last few steps towards a new labor structure for Capital Metro. The changes are required to comply with a new state law that requires transit employees to either become employees of the state or to become employees of a private contractor. The union that represents most of the employees chose the latter option so they could retain collective bargaining rights.

The board will need to choose one contractor for employees of fixed-route bus services and another for employees of paratransit services (door-to-door services for people with disabilities). The board could also choose to have one contractor employ workers of both services.

Photo by KUT News

The unemployment rate is down again in the Austin area.

According to Workforce Solutions, the unemployment rate for March dropped to six percent — that’s just a tenth of a percent lower than in February but remains well below the state and national averages.

Workforce Solutions Capital Area Executive Director Alan Miller says things are moving in the right direction at a slow and steady pace.

Willie and a friend gets a sneak peek at his bronze likeness.
Photo courtesy willienelson.com

Willie Nelson Statue Unveiled

A statue of famed country musician Willie Nelson will be unveiled today.

The eight-foot tall, one-ton statue will stand on the plaza located on Willie Nelson Boulevard (aka Second Street) and Lavaca Street, at the foot of the Austin City Limits Live Theater. Capital Area Statues has worked on the project over the past several years and as board president Lawrence Wright describes it, the statue will be another fixture of Austin’s culture.

“This gift to Austin will become an instant, iconic representation of our great city and its love affair with music.” 

A looming labor switchover means Capital Metro will only have about 200 direct employees.
Photo by Emily Donahue for KUT News

This summer, some 850 workers will no longer be directly employed by transit authority Capital Metro, or its non-profit contractor StarTran — instead, they’ll be contracted out to a soon-to-be named private company.

It’s a change that has to be made because of a state law passed last year, requiring transit employees to either become state employees or employees of a private contractor. The union that represents most of the workers chose the contractor option, as to maintain collective bargaining rights.

Tomorrow, staff will recommend to the Capital Metro Board of Directors which of the contractor bids it believes is best. They may recommend one contractor for fixed route services (regular bus lines), and another for paratransit services (door-to-door service for people with disabilities). Staff may also recommend a single contractor for both.

Protesters were arrested for occupying UT President Bill Powers' office yesterday.
Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

UT Students Protest for Workers Rights

The Daily Texan reports a total of 19 protesters, not all of them students, were arrested yesterday for occupying UT President Bill Powers’ office. They were there in protest against alleged sweatshop-like conditions where UT apparel is produced.

The protesters are members of the Make UT Sweatshop-Free Coalition and included 17 students and two members who are not students.

According to the Texan, the demands of the protestors was a request for the University to switch to the Workers Rights Consortium, an independent monitoring organization that conducts investigations of working conditions in factories. A statement on the WRC homepage specifically mentions their goal to protect the rights of workers who make clothes.

KUT News

Austin has made yet another “best of” list. This time, it’s Austin-Bergstrom International Airport that’s getting the accolades — or more precisely, the ABIA outpost of The Salt Lick.

That’s right — the website Food Republic ranks The Salt Lick at ABIA as Number Four on its list of “The World’s Best Airport Restaurants.”

The website says:

Texas barbecue doesn’t get much better than Salt Lick BBQ and an outpost of the preternaturally popular 800-seat restaurant in Driftwood is located in the West Terminal (but fills the entire airport with the bewitching scent of brisket). Try a sloppy, but satisfying, pulled pork sandwich topped with slaw and Original Recipe barbecue sauce for a taste of Hill Country on the tarmac.

Free curly fries are among the freebies businesses offer customers this Tax Day.
Photo courtesy flickr.com/wwny

Some retailers are trying to ease the burden of Tax Day with free and discounted products.

Here's a look at some of the businesses offering a little something extra this April 17 – at participating locations, of course.

Update: Looking to get that midnight postmark? Sorry, but Austin's post offices are no longer staying open until midnight for tax day. Read more here.


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11:59 p.m. is the deadline to have your tax returns postmarked. The General Mail Facility at 8225 Cross Park Drive near Anderson Lane and U.S. 290 East will be collecting mail until midnight to help procrastinators.

But unlike in years past, post office officials don’t expect a huge late-night rush. Many people now use the internet to submit their tax forms. Sam Bolen is a spokesperson for the U.S. Postal Service. Bolen says he’s not sure how much longer Austin will have a post office open late for Tax Day.

A ruling will be issued today on the school finance trial.
flickr.com/59937401@N07

Schools Finance Lawsuits Get Court Date

A tentative trial date is set for four Texas school finance lawsuits.  State District Judge John Dietz has set the trial for October 22.

Hundreds of school districts from across the state are unhappy with the way Texas distributes money. Attorney Mark Trachtenberg, who represents 86 of those districts, says state funding cuts have contributed to depriving districts of the resources they need to meet standards set by the state itself.

Gov. Perry called on legislators to back his "Budget Compact" today.
Photo by Daniel Reese for KUT News

Governor Rick Perry is calling on state lawmakers to cut spending and keep taxes level in the state’s next budget. Perry unveiled details of the “Texas Budget Compact” in Houston today.

“By keeping this tight rein on spending, we can build a more solid, predictable economy that doesn’t put off tough decisions until, in some cases, it’s too late to deal with them,” Gov. Perry told the crowd in Houston. In details noted on the Governor’s website, Perry also called to “preserve a strong Rainy Day Fund” and “cut unnecessary and duplicative government programs and agencies.”

The state is in the middle of a two year budget passed by lawmakers in 2011. That budget cycle cut spending by $15 billion.

Photo by Jeff Heimsath for KUT News
Photo by Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

Governor Rick Perry to Unveil Budget Pledge

From the Texas Tribune, Governor Rick Perry is focusing on the state’s financial future. He’ll be in Houston this afternoon to talk about a budget plan.

Perry will unveil a pledge he’ll ask politicians to sign. It promises to cut spending, keep taxes the same and set strict limits on how much government can expand. It’s his first major move as governor since dropping out of the presidential race.

Perry says this pledge will “lead to a stronger Texas.” But some state Democrats aren’t so sure.

Photo courtesy flickr.com/bwjones

The Texas Medical Board has approved guidelines for the use of adult stem cells.

The new rules say that the procedure must be part of a clinical trial and have the approval of the Food and Drug Administration or an institutional review board. Leigh Hopper, a spokesperson for the Texas Medical Board says these institutions will make sure the use of adult stem cells is safe, ethical and that patients give informed consent.

Hopper says board members felt that since patients already have access to adult stem cells, the procedure needs to be regulated.

“Since this is occurring right now, the majority of the board felt that it was important to put some sort of framework in place to protect patients,” said Hopper.

Cruz, Leppert, James and Dewhurst will face off in a debate tonight.
Photo by Allen Otto, Texas Tribune

Tonight the top Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate will meet in Dallas for a televised debate.

The debate will feature Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, Former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz, former Dallas mayor Tom Leppert and former SMU Football star and ESPN commentator Craig James. The candidates are vying to fill Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison’s seat. Hutchison has announced she will not seek another term.

Jim Henson is the Director of the Texas Politics Project at UT Austin. He says the debate represents the first time that the U.S. Senate race has taken the full spotlight. It’s been overshadowed by the struggle to set a primary date and by the GOP presidential nomination.

Photo by Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

APD Officer Killed in the Line of Duty to be Buried Today

Today, APD Senior Police Officer Jaime Padron will be buried in San Angelo. The local funeral will begin at 10 a.m., followed a procession to Lawnhaven Memorial Gardens where Padron will be laid to rest.

Padron was remembered in Austin on Wednesday with a funeral, police honors service and procession.

Photo by Nathan Bernier, KUT News

The percentage of low-income residents in Austin is going up. That’s according to the Community Action Network’s third annual Community Dashboard report, released this morning.

Photo for KUT News by Nasha Lee Lee

Senior Police Officer Jaime Padron will remembered today in a service at Shoreline Church at 15201 Burnet Road. The public is invited to pay their respects.

For those who cannot attend, the funeral will be available to watch online on the church's website.

Immediately following the service, the congregation will exit the church and attend a police ceremony on the lawn which will include a police air unit flyover and a final radio call.

Padron's body will then be taken to San Angelo for burial.

Photo courtesy Liz Davenport via Flickr

The rate of teen pregnancies in Texas fell by 15 percent from 2007 to 2010.

A new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows the number of 15 to 19 year-old girls having babies in Texas dropped from nearly 62 in every 1,000 to about 52 per 1,000.

54,281 Texas teens gave birth in 2007. That number went down by 6,530 to 47,751 in 2010.

Photo by flickr.com/alphachimpstudio

MoPac Improvement Plan Makes Move for New Funding

The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority has offered a preliminary proposal to acquire $135 million for the MoPac Improvement Plan.

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) notified Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization board (CAMPO) of an unexpected funding windfall of $135 million. During a CAMPO work session last night, CTRMA requested that they receive the new funding to begin the improvements to MoPac.

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