AM Update 7/12/2012
7:51 am
Thu July 12, 2012

AM Update: AISD Grad Rates Rising, Burn Ban Lifted, Texas Looks at the Affordable Care Act

AISD Graduation Rates Continue to Rise

For the third year in a row, graduation rates are up in the Austin Independent School District.

The class of 2011 graduated 80 percent of students – that's up just over a percentage from last year and about six percent higher than than in 2008.

The Texas Education Agency says AISD made significant jumps in graduation rates specifically for economically-disadvantaged students and students who are still learning English. Debra Reedy, the Director of Assessment and Accountability for AISD, is pleased with those gains.

“That’s kind of been our goal, certainly in the last couple of years, to really focus on those gaps within those student groups and to try to decrease the gaps,” Reedy says.

While the graduation rate for almost every student group rose in 2011, one group that may need more help is special education students. Their graduation rate fell from 61 to 60 percent. It was the only graduation rate subset in AISD to drop last year. 

AISD Superintendent Meria Carstarphen says she is proud of all the hard work from students, teachers, and principals and the commitment to their goals.

“Higher graduation rates are critical to the success of our students, district, and to the future of our local economy,” Carstarphen says.

AISD hopes to have the graduation rate up to 90 percent by 2014. 

Burn Ban Be Gone

Fire Marshal Hershel Lee has lifted the burn ban for Travis County.

On Tuesday, Lee told Travis County Commissioners that he thought the burn ban needed to stay in place because some western parts of the county were still too dry and vulnerable to wildfire.

But the area received the slow, soaking rain Lee was waiting on and he lifted the ban on outdoor burning on Wednesday.

The burn ban had been in place since June 26.

Click here for a list of outdoor burning rules.

More Health Care Changes, More Health Care Discussion

Governor Rick Perry announced this week that Texas will not expand Medicaid or establish a health insurance exchange – two major elements of the Affordable Care Act. Because of the Affordable Care Act timeline, Texas wouldn't have made the deadline for a state-created health insurance exchange.

Members of the Texas House Appropriations Committee are meeting today to get an update from experts on the Affordable Care Act. A state Health and Human Services Commission Committee is also meeting to talk about Medicaid services in the state.

Many Texas businesses are also still trying to understand and adjust to the changes. Insurance consulting firm Mercer says that one in six businesses is planning to hold off on developing a health care strategy until after the November elections. With the significant changes set to go into effect in 2014, Mercer consultant Tracy Watts thinks businesses shouldn’t wait, but do need some help.

“I think it’s a lot to keep track of and to know what you’re supposed to do when,” Watts said.