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.

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Education
9:00 am
Fri December 16, 2011

UT President Ends Tough Year With Another Battle

University of Texas at Austin President, William Powers - Dec. 14, 2011
Photo by Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

For Bill Powers, 2011 has been a year full of upheavals.

Certain issues were foreseeable for the president of the University of Texas at Austin, the state’s largest and arguably most prestigious public university. State lawmakers were heading into a legislative session with budget axes at the ready, and nationally there were questions about the value of higher education.

Then, in early February, when he should have been testifying at the Capitol about the university’s financial needs, Powers suffered a pulmonary embolism. He was in the hospital for a week.

It was the first struggle in a year marked by high-profile battles involving Powers — to some, the university’s very own Dumbledore; to others, a particularly large bee in the bonnet of higher education reformers.

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Politics
5:35 pm
Fri December 2, 2011

Hochberg, House Public Ed Expert, Won't Run Again

State Rep. Scott Hochberg, D-Houston, speaks to the press about two school finance measures filed on March 8, 2011
Photo by Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune

The Legislature's foremost expert on school finance and one of its top public education advocates, state Rep. Scott Hochberg, D-Houston, confirmed this afternoon that he won't seek re-election next year.

Hochberg, who took office in 1993 and is now the vice chairman of the House Education Committee and the chairman of the education subcommittee on the House Appropriations Committee, said the time had come for him to pursue something new.

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2012 Presidential Election
2:04 pm
Fri October 14, 2011

In Pennsylvania, Perry Calls To Energize America

Gov. Rick Perry tours a steel mill in West Mifflin, Pa. before giving a speech there on Oct. 14.
Photo by Ben Philpott, KUT News

At a steel mill outside Pittsburgh this morning, the Texas governor called for "a 'made in America' energy revolution." 

Looking to turn the corner after a series of flat performances at debates where he was attacked for offering little substance but many sound bites, he delivered the first major economic policy speech of his campaign.

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2012 Presidential Election
3:55 pm
Tue October 11, 2011

In Blow to Perry, Romney Gets Christie Endorsement

Mitt Romney and Gov. Chris Christie shake hands after Romney introduces him at event in Lebanon New Hampshire.
Photo by Ben Philpott/KUT News

LEBANON, New Hampshire —  Gov. Rick Perry's chief rival for the GOP presidential nomination picked up a key endorsement from popular New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. 

The announcement that Christie will support former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney came just hours before a debate that will be crucial for Perry, who saw his poll numbers drop after poor showings in the previous rounds. 

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Education
2:43 pm
Fri September 16, 2011

Texas Approves Charter School For Deion Sanders

Photo by Michael J. Cargill

Former Dallas Cowboys cornerback Deion Sanders' charter school application was among eight approved by the Texas State Board of Education today.

The decision came after a brief discussion during which members raised questions about the schools' academic rigor and Sanders' involvement.

"I have no idea what the applicant plans to do in the classroom, how they plan to instruct the TEKS," said Michael Soto, D-San Antonio, adding, " I have no idea what they plan to offer in a day to day classroom experience."

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Education
10:35 am
Mon July 25, 2011

For Some, School Ratings Change Increases the Worry

Austin ISD headquarters on W. 6th Street.
Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

On Friday, the Texas Education Agency will publicly release its annual accountability ratings for the state’s 1,000-plus school districts. School officials always eye this day with nervous anticipation, but this year many are feeling more than a twinge of dread.

This will be the first year the official ratings — which categorize schools as “exemplary,” “recognized,” “acceptable” or “unacceptable” based on academic performance — will not contain the mechanism known as the Texas Projection Measure since it was implemented in 2009.

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Education
12:14 pm
Fri June 17, 2011

Keeping Full Day Public Pre-K Alive, With Fees

Photo by NolanPhotog http://www.flickr.com/photos/dpnolan/

The 82nd Legislature delivered a fatal whack to state grants for full-day pre-kindergarten. But some public schools are refusing to let the budgetary machete finish off their early-childhood programs, choosing instead to charge tuition.

The state offers half-day pre-K for children who cannot speak English or are from homeless, low-income, foster or military families. That remains fully financed in the budget, according to the Texas Education Agency. 

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Politics
4:51 pm
Fri June 3, 2011

School Finance Returns to Senate Floor; What Next?

Sen. Robert Duncan (R-Lubbock)
Photo by Marjorie Kamys Cotera, Texas Tribune

The Senate Finance Committee made quick work of the omnibus fiscal matters bill SB 1 yesterday, kicking it out in the mid-afternoon after several hours of testimony from the usual round of superintendents and school associations.

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Politics
4:58 pm
Fri May 27, 2011

School Finance Deal Running Out of Time

Sen. Florence Shapiro (l), R-Plano, visits with Health & Human Services Committee chairman Sen. Jane Nelson on May 3, 2011
Photo by Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune

he House and Senate must agree on how to distribute the $4 billion reduction in state public education funding by 5 p.m. today, say Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, and Rep. Charlie Geren, R-River Oaks.

"The thing that I'm most concerned about is, if we don't come up with something, what are the schools going to do?" Shapiro asked. "We really are in a very precarious period of time."

After rejecting an initial proposal from the House late last night, the Senate sent a counteroffer back across the dome, which members there are currently considering.

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Politics
4:00 pm
Tue May 24, 2011

Senate OKs "Loser Pays"

The Texas Senate passed a so-called "Loser Pays" bill on a unanimous vote Tuesday.
Photo by Erik Reyna/KUT News

The Senate unanimously passed a major tort reform bill today that would allow courts to grant attorneys' fees to prevailing parties under certain circumstances.

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Education
6:19 pm
Mon May 16, 2011

What $7.8 Billion Less Looks Like for Your District

Photo by Ryan Murphy, Morgan Smith and Todd Wiseman

Whether final reductions to the state public education spending end up closer to $7.8 billion or $4 billion, how much districts will individually bear depends on how — or if — the Legislature rethinks the state’s school finance system. 

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Politics
11:08 am
Thu May 12, 2011

What If Texas Doesn't Pass a School Finance Bill?

With time running out, lawmakers still don't have a new public school funding system that would allow billions of dollars in cuts.
Texas Tribune

Nobody wanted to think about it in January. But as the middle of May approaches, with little more than two weeks left of the 82nd legislative session, a growing chorus of voices is asking: What happens if lawmakers can’t agree on school finance reform?

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Politics
5:18 pm
Sat May 7, 2011

Texas House Meltdown Ends in GOP Show of Force

It was a day of procedural maneuvers on the House floor.
Photo Courtesy The Texas Tribune

A day of parliamentary chaos in the House ended with the passage of Gov. Rick Perry’s newest emergency item: a tort reform bill. And a powerful message from Republicans to Democrats: mess with us at your own peril.

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Politics
1:17 pm
Sat May 7, 2011

Parliamentary Deadlock Grips the House Floor

Rep. Chisum and other Republicans try to figure out a way to get some of their priority bills passed in the House.
Photo Courtesy The Texas Tribune

With 38 members missing from House's first Saturday meeting — most of them Republicans — Democrats seized a chance to cause some procedural mischief when they realized only 14 of them would have to walk out to break a quorum.

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