Morgan Smith, Texas Tribune

Reporter with The Texas Tribune

Morgan Smith was an editorial intern and columnist at Slate in Washington, D.C., before moving to Austin to enter law school at the University of Texas in 2008. (She has put her degree on hold to join the Tribune's staff.) A native of San Antonio, she has a bachelor's degree in English from Wellesley College.

Pages

Texas
4:13 pm
Mon September 15, 2014

Texas Schools Get Military Gear Through Federal Program

Austin Police Officer Cory Ehrler monitors the entrance to Ridgetop Elementary School after classes start on the Monday following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
Tamir Kalifa via Texas Tribune

Texas school districts dominate the list of those receiving military equipment — including firearms and armored vehicles — through a federal initiative, according to a letter sent by a coalition of civil rights and education advocacy groups to the U.S. Department of Defense on Monday.

Read more
Education
2:11 pm
Thu August 7, 2014

Charters Push Back Against Measure on School Closures

Todd Wiseman/Texas Tribune

In 2013, when Texas passed its first overhaul of charter school policy since 1995 — the year the publicly funded but privately operated schools were first established in the state — lawmakers included a provision intended to speed the shuttering of poor-performing schools.

But nearly 10 months after the Texas Education Agency marked six operators for closure under the new measure, three of those schools remain open. As those charters prepare to open their doors this month for a new school year, they say they are fighting a process that does not account for the full picture of a charter’s financial or academic health.  

Read more
Education
11:48 am
Mon August 4, 2014

With Uncertainty, Schools Prepare for New Arrivals

On June 24, 2014, volunteers gather at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in McAllen, where the Rio Grande Valley Catholic Charities have a makeshift shelter to help handle the surge of immigrants who have crossed into the U.S. in recent weeks.
Marjorie Kamys Cotera, Texas Tribune

Federal officials along the border have scrambled in the last few months to house and care for tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors from Central America crossing the border into the United States.

Read more
Education
2:55 pm
Thu January 9, 2014

Dewhurst Rolls Out Education Interim Charges

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst at a charter school rally.
Bob Daemmrich for Texas Tribune

Studying technology's impact on higher education and evaluating public school students' writing scores on state assessments are among the tasks Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst gave lawmakers in education-related interim charges Thursday.

Dewhurst announced the charges, which are expected to increase in the coming weeks, at a benefit for the United Negro College Fund in Dallas.

Read more
Texas Election 2014
1:20 pm
Sat November 23, 2013

Van de Putte Joins Race for Lieutenant Governor

Sen. Leticia van de Putte, D-San Antonio announces her candidacy for Lt. Governor at San Antonio College on November 23, 2013.
Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune

SAN ANTONIO — Long rumored to be a contender, state Sen. Leticia Van De Putte has now made it official: She is running for lieutenant governor.

"I want to be your lieutenant governor because Mama ain't happy — because Texas, we can do better," Van de Putte said Saturday in a fiery announcement speech in front of about 200 supporters at the San Antonio college gymnasium.

Read more
Education
12:41 pm
Wed June 19, 2013

Texas School Finance Trial Goes For Round Two

After a trial that lasted more than three months, Judge John Dietz ruled in February that the state's school finance system is unconstitutional.
Marjorie Kamys Cotera for The Texas Tribune

State district court Judge John Dietz likened the state's school finance case to the soap opera As The World Turns when he opened Wednesday's hearing on whether to reconsider evidence in the trial that concluded in February.

He drew the comparison not because of the trial's drama but because of its longevity.

Read more
2013 Legislative Sesssion
10:00 am
Thu May 16, 2013

Patrick's Charter School Bill Faces Test in House

State Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, spoke Wednesday as Texas charter school supporters rallied at the Texas Capitol to lobby the Legislature for more funding.
Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune

The state’s charter school system could move closer to its first expansion in nearly two decades on Thursday, as the House is set to take up an education reform measure that passed through the Senate earlier this session.

Senate Bill 2, authored by Senate Education Chairman Dan Patrick, R-Houston, would increase the number of available state contracts for the schools that are publicly funded but privately operated by nonprofit organizations. 

Read more
Texas
4:42 pm
Wed May 8, 2013

Judge: Cheerleaders Can Keep Bible Verses On Banners

As two Kountze football players prepare to play a game on Oct. 5, 2012, one holds a banner with a Bible verse.
Eric Kayne for Texas Tribune

Cheerleaders at an East Texas high school who were told to stop displaying Bible verses on banners at school athletic events can resume such displays, after a state district judge ruled in their favor Wednesday.

The national headline-grabbing lawsuit arose last fall when Kountze Independent School District administrators ordered its high school cheerleaders to stop displaying religious messages during athletic events after a group advocating for the separation of church and state threatened to sue. 

Read more
Education
10:36 am
Fri April 12, 2013

In Texas, Nixing Algebra II Not Out of the Equation

Hank Warner teaches a pre-advanced placement algebra course for ninth-graders at Bowie High School in Austin.
Tamir Kalifa/Texas Tribune

As Texas re-examines what students should learn in order to earn a high school diploma, no part of the state’s curriculum has attracted more attention than a single advanced math course.

In response to calls from educators and employers for graduation standards that allow more opportunities for career-training courses, the state Legislature is considering more flexible diploma requirements that do not include algebra II as a core credit for all students.

Read more
83rd Texas Legislature
12:55 pm
Thu February 28, 2013

Senate Panel Approves More Money for Public Schools

August 29th Senate Committee on Finance with newly appointed Chair Sen. Tommy Williams R-The Woodlands.
Marjorie Kamys Cotera via Texas Tribune

A panel of senators voted to put $1.5 billion in additional funding for public education in the two-year state budget on Thursday — including $40 million for pre-kindergarten programs, $20 million for the state's Virtual School Network and $4 million to support Teach for America.

Read more
2013 Legislative Sesssion
3:45 pm
Mon February 18, 2013

Education Chairman Aims to Expand Charter Schools

Sen. Dan Patrick R-Houston thinks during Senate Education Committee meeting on June 2, 2011
Marjorie Kamys Cotera, Texas Tribune

Broad changes to the state's charter school system, including the creation of a new state board to oversee the state contract process, would result from legislation filed Monday by Senate Education Committee Chairman Dan Patrick, R-Houston.

The State Board of Education currently oversees applications for charter school contracts, which state law caps at 215. Patrick's Senate Bill 2 would create a new state entity to authorize the contracts and lift that cap, allowing for an unlimited number of charter school operators in the state.

Read more
Politics
6:51 pm
Tue February 12, 2013

Former House Education Chairman Lobbying for Pearson

State Rep. Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands, talks with his colleagues about HB500 the education bill on April 6, 2011.
Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune

Former House Public Education Chairman Rob Eissler has taken on publishing and testing giant Pearson as a client, according to recent Ethics Commission filings.

The Republican from The Woodlands, who lost his seat in the 2012 Republican primary, is now an Austin lobbyist whose clients include the Harris County Department of Education and the Barbers Hill Independent School District.

Read more
Education
4:05 pm
Mon February 4, 2013

School Finance Ruling Favors Districts

Todd Wiseman via Texas Tribune

In a decision certain to be appealed to the Texas Supreme Court, state district Judge John Dietz ruled Monday in favor of more than 600 school districts on all of their major claims against the state's school finance system.  With a swift ruling issued from the bench shortly after the state finished its closing arguments, Dietz said the state does not adequately or efficiently fund public schools — and that it has created an unconstitutional de-facto property tax in shifting the burden of paying for them to the local level.

Read more
2013 Legislative Sesssion
11:36 am
Tue January 22, 2013

Study Sought on Effect of Possible Federal Funding Cuts

Republican State Reps. (l to r) Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen; James White, R-Woodville, Bryan Hughes, R-Marshall,; and Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, work on HB4 budget amendments on March 31, 2011.
Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune

A Texas lawmaker has filed legislation that would require the state to study the effects of cutting financial ties with the federal government.

Rep. James White, R-Hillister, said he filed HB 568 because the state needed to be prepared for the possibility that the federal government could not meet its financial obligations because of "fiscal dysfunction" in Washington, D.C.

Read more
Education
12:18 pm
Tue January 8, 2013

Land Board to Transfer $300 Million to School Fund

Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson.
Callie Richmond for Texas Tribune

The School Land Board voted Tuesday to release $300 million into the Available School Fund for public schools.

The money will be released in two $150 million installments, one in February and the other on June. The funds had been caught in a standoff between the Legislature and the School Land Board, which operates out of the General Land Office and oversees the state’s public school land. 

Read more
Education
1:05 pm
Wed December 19, 2012

Dewhurst, Patrick Discuss Plans for School Reform

Lt. Governor David Dewhurst and Sen. Dan Patrick R-Houston, during press conference to discuss education reform in Texas including school choice.
Marjorie Kamys Cotera, Texas Tribune

Speaking in a Catholic school classroom in Austin, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and state Sen. Dan Patrick gave the first details of what they promised would be a wide-ranging set of proposals for public education policy during the upcoming legislative session.

Patrick, a Houston Republican who chairs the Senate Education Committee, said he would carry legislation that would increase the options for public school students through lifting the state's cap on charter schools, fostering open enrollment within and across school districts, and creating a private school scholarship fund through offering a state business tax savings credit to corporations. 

Read more
Education
4:12 pm
Thu November 29, 2012

Perry: Let School Districts Decide on 15 Percent Rule

Shannan Muskopf/Texas Tribune

Gov. Rick Perry is expressing his support for letting school districts themselves choose whether to implement a rule that requires new state assessments to count for 15 percent of high school students' final grades.

In a written statement Thursday — the first time the governor has publicly weighed in on the issue —  Perry praised legislation filed by state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, that would leave the decision up to local school districts. He also asked Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams to defer the state's rollout of the rule until the next school year.

Read more
Education
10:30 am
Thu November 29, 2012

Texas Posts Top High School Graduation Rates, But Why?

Brian Gurrola for Texas Tribune

With witnesses in a school finance trial testifying daily on the challenges facing public education in the state, and with a chorus of state leaders citing the failings of traditional public schools in calling for reform, some may be surprised to hear that by one measure, Texas schools appear to be doing quite well.

Preliminary data released by the U.S. Department of Education this week shows that Texas — along with five other states — ranks fourth in the nation for its four-year high school graduation rates. With an overall rate of 86 percent in the 2010-11 school year, the state follows Iowa, with 88 percent, and Wisconsin and Vermont, both at 87 percent.

Read more
Education
6:56 am
Wed November 28, 2012

Texas School Districts, Charters Are Finalists in Federal Competition

Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

By the end of the year, a few Texas school districts may have access to millions in funding that Gov. Rick Perry had passed on two years ago because of concerns about federal intrusion into Texas classrooms.

Since Texas refused to participate in Race to the Top at the state level in 2010, the Obama administration has rolled out a new version of its signature education program to allow districts to apply individually for a separate pot of about $400 million in federal money. Administration officials announced the new round of competition that would emphasize data-driven personalized student learning plans in 2011, after three phases of the state-based contest.

Read more
Politics
11:18 am
Thu October 4, 2012

Lt. Gov. Dewhurst Shuffles Senate Committee Chairs

David Dewhurst in 2011.
Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst is making some big leadership changes ahead of the 2013 legislative session.

On Thursday morning, his office announced that he was shuffling committee chairs up for the remainder of the interim, appointing state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, to chair the education committee, and replacing state Sen.Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, with state Sen. Kel Seliger R-Amarillo, as chair of the higher education committee.

Both Seliger and Patrick have pushed to lead the education committee since it was vacated by retiring state Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano. 

Dewhurst’s pick indicates his support for school choice legislation, for which Patrick has become an increasingly vocal advocate. The Houston senator recently led an interim committee hearing that focused on the benefits of such reforms, including private school vouchers. In August, he told the Houston Chronicle that "this was the year" to pass laws enacting them, saying it would be "the photo ID bill of this session." At the Republican National Convention, Dewhurst told delegates he looked forward to working with Patrick in passing school choice reform.

Read more

Pages