AISD

Austin
8:33 am
Fri October 26, 2012

The Lead: Planned Parenthood Funding Cut, AISD Debt, Texas State Threat Suspect Arrested

Good morning. Looks like Austin's entering a cool down! There may be some light showers today, but it looks like clear skies all weekend, according to the National Weather Service. Here are some stories KUT News has been working on:

Governor Rick Perry says the state is moving to immediately to cut off funds to Planned Parenthood. The announcement came after a federal appeals court said Thursday it will not reconsider a decision that says Texas can withhold funds under the Women’s Health Program.

As the Austin Independent School District gets ready to ask voters to approve hundreds of millions of dollars in borrowing next May, figures published by the Texas Comptroller show the district has one of the the lowest per-student debt rates among Austin-area school districts. That said, AISD also has the most debt of any district in the area, at $809,435,850. But, calculated on a per-student basis, AISD’s outstanding debt it is $9,492. AISD also has the lowest debt per capita.

A former Texas State University student, 19-year-old Brittany Henderson, has been arrested for making a bomb threat at the school last week. Several buildings were evacuated because of the threat. Henderson was arrested in Bryan on Tuesday and charged with making a terroristic threat, which is a third-degree felony, and making a false alarm, which is a class A misdemeanor.

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Education
1:34 pm
Thu October 25, 2012

AISD Debt-To-Student Ratio Among Lowest in Central Texas

Nathan Bernier/KUT News

As the Austin Independent School District gets ready to ask voters to approve hundreds of millions of dollars in borrowing next May, figures published by the Texas Comptroller today show the district has one of the the lowest per-student debt rates among Austin-area school districts.

That said, AISD also has the most debt of any district in the area, at $809,435,850. But calculated on a per-student basis, AISD’s outstanding debt it is $9,492. The Austin school district also has the lowest debt per capita of $1,272.

A lot depends on how you define “Central Texas.” Lockhart ISD, for example, has a lower debt-to-student ratio of just $5,565.75. You will find lower debt ratios in some of the outlying, more rural districts in the region, like Granger ISD, Florence ISD, and Prarie Lea ISD, which has no debt at all. (It also has a student population of 232.)

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Austin
8:35 am
Wed October 24, 2012

Local Tax Exemptions at Center of New Lawsuit

An historic home on San Gabriel Street in Austin.
KUT News

Three Austinites are suing the City of Austin, Travis County, the Austin Independent School District and Central Health for allowing tax breaks on what the plaintiffs refer to as “allegedly” historic properties.

The plaintiffs are Dominic Chavez, Mike Levy and and Ed Wendler Jr. The three men claim that giving a tax break without proving a need is against the Texas tax code. And, they say, the policy unfairly benefits the wealthy—diverting $4 million of local tax revenue.

They also claim that the City of Austin’s method for historic designation is arbitrary and does little to actually ensure historic preservation:

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Education
4:50 pm
Tue October 23, 2012

Public Hearing Tonight on AISD Bond

The Citizens' Bond Advisory Committee is coming up with a list of the district's top spending priorities.
Nathan Bernier, KUT News

The Austin Independent School District’s Citizens’ Bond Advisory Committee is asking for public input on the district’s bond program this evening.

The committee is hosting a public hearing from 6:30 - 9 p.m. at Reagan High School (7104 Berkman Dr.).

Those wishing to speak should sign up at the high school before the meeting or submit comments on the district’s website.

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Education
9:06 pm
Mon October 22, 2012

AISD Board Extends Carstarphen's Contract to 2015

Jeff Heimsath, KUT News

The Austin school board voted 7-2 to extend an employment contract with Dr. Meria Carstarphen, the superintendent who oversees the education of more than 86,000 Austin children in the largest school district in Central Texas. If Carstarphen fulfills her contract to June 2015, she will have served seven years at the helm of AISD, a term twice as long as the average tenure of an urban superintendent. Carstarphen earns $283,412 per year. 

In a sweeping assessment of Carstarphen's performance, school board president Mark Williams said she has "shown courage" and the board "continues to believe that she is the right person to lead Austin ISD." Williams' annual evaluation was overwhelmingly positive, although it did highlight several areas of weakness. Those included a need for AISD to "improve its community engagement efforts." 

Williams' evaluation also drew attention to "a significant achievement gap" among white students and their Hispanic and African-American counterparts. For example, Texas Education Agency data shows almost 90 percent of white high school seniors graduated in the 2010-11 school year, compared to 72 percent of African American students, a disparity even larger than the statewide gap of 5.5 percent.

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The Lead
9:03 am
Tue October 16, 2012

The Lead: Aerial Surveillance, Cyber Warfare, Cuts Coming at AMD?

Good morning. Austin can expect cloud coverage for most of the day, and the occasional shower. The National Weather Service says we can a 40 percent chance of rain today. Here's some of KUT’s top stories this morning:

Here's  more stories of interest from Central Texas: 

  • Cyber Warfare Here To Stay; Austin Could Play Key Role (KVUE)

"It's a spy versus spy kind of world," said Ken Phillips, business development manager at Overwatch Textron Systems. The Austin-based business is developing the latest line of defense against cyber threats, which focuses on security at the file level in order to overcome internal leaks or systems that have been compromised.

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Education
1:30 pm
Mon October 8, 2012

AISD Considers Paying More For Coaches

School board members and Superintendent Meria Carstarphen will discuss AISD athletics at their meeting tonight.
Nathan Bernier, KUT News

The Austin school district could start offering more perks to athletic coaches in hopes of attracting better talent. School board members will hear about a proposal tonight to pay coaches competitive stipends and offer flexible work schedules.

Austin ISD says student athletes do better in school than non-athletes. Their attendance rates are five percent higher. They score almost seven percent higher on math tests. And they are 16 percent more likely to graduate. The relationship between learning and sports is the subject of much scholarly analysis.

That’s part of the justification for increasing how much AISD dedicates to athletics. Currently, the district spends about $10.7 million a year, which amounts to 1.1 percent of AISD’s budget. Almost two out of five high school students play sports. In middle school, it’s closer to three out of five.

Providing stipends to coaches and giving them more flexible work schedules might help attract better talent and make students more likely to play sports, but the head of the Texas High School Athletic Directors Association Rusty Dowling says that’s not the only thing coaches will consider.

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AM Update: 9/10/12
8:47 am
Mon September 10, 2012

AM Update: Single-Sex Schools, Controversial Highway, Texas vs. the Feds

The AISD School Board is looking into turning Pearce Middle School into a single-sex school.
Nathan Bernier, KUT News

It's back to work and school today but with cooler temperatures highs in the mid-90s. Here's a look at some of the big stories developing today:

AISD Looks at Single-Sex Education Options

The Austin  School Board is taking another look at single-sex middle schools this evening.

AISD Superintendent Dr. Meria Carstarphen had wanted to create single-sex schools at Pearce and Garcia Middle Schools as soon as next school year. But the idea met resistance from some school board members and parents. If the board decides to go forward with the plan, it won’t go into effect until at least 2014-2015.

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AM Update: 8/29/12
8:52 am
Wed August 29, 2012

AM Update: AISD Budget Approved, Highway Patrol Museum Closed, Dog Park Talk Tonight

A fundraising organization that purported to help Texas state troopers and their families has been shuttered.
Daniel Reese for KUT News

A good — and groggy — morning to the 50,000 UT-Austin students returning to class today. Here’s some of Austin’s top overnight stories.

Austin School Board Approves 2012-13 Budget

The Austin ISD Board of Trustees approved a budget for the coming school year last night, including $14 million in raises for district employees.

The Austin American-Statesman has more details on the budget:

The district will keep its tax rate the same, at $1.242 per $100 of assessed value, with $1.079 for operations and 16.3 cents for debt. The owner of an average taxable value home, $244,534 after exemptions, would pay $3,037 annually, an increase of $7.

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AM Update: 8/28/12
9:18 am
Tue August 28, 2012

AM Update: AISD's Billion Dollar Budget, Funding for Nonprofits, Texas Preps for Isaac

Emergency officials are making preparations as Isaac nears landfall.
NOAA

Good morning. Expect a high near 95 and a slight chance of showers this Tuesday. Here’s some of this morning’s top stories.

Austin School Board Sets Budget

The Austin ISD Board of Trustees gathers to act on a budget this evening.

The board will vote on a $1 billion spending plan Tuesday night that provides a one-time three percent pay raise for staff by drawing money from its emergency checking account.

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Education
1:12 pm
Wed August 22, 2012

AISD to Focus on Increasing Minority Graduation Rates

AISD Superintendent Meria Carstarphen says the district has a lot to cheer about but there's still a lot of work to do.
Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

AISD Superintendent Meria Carstarphen opened an all-staff convocation today by highlighting achievements in the district. But she also made clear there’s room for improvement.

Carstarphen told teachers they will have to handle non-violent disciplinary cases with in-school suspensions. It’s part of a policy the district is pursuing to increase graduation rates among minorities, who are disproportionately placed in the districts disciplinary schools.

“Nearly a third of African American and Hispanic males did not graduate on time. Hispanic females have dropout rates that are five times higher than Caucasian females in the district,” Carstarphen says.

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Education
12:05 am
Tue August 14, 2012

AISD Board Asks if Single-Sex Schools Are the Answer

Austin ISD Superintendent Meria Carstarphen talks to school board members during Monday night's work session.
Nathan Bernier, KUT News

The Austin school district is racking its brain trying to come up with a way to help turn around two middle schools repeatedly ranked “academically unacceptable” by the state. The latest plan for Pearce and Garcia Middle Schools involves converting them to single-sex campuses, but that proposal has not received resounding support from the public. That uncertainty surfaced last night among members of the Austin school board.

Pearce and Garcia Middle schools are each about two-thirds Hispanic and one-third African-American, give or take. Both student populations are almost all economically disadvantaged, as measured by the number of students on the National School Lunch Program.

Year after year, both schools have wound up on the state's list of academically unacceptable campuses. And year after year, school board trustees proclaim the need to do something about it.

“Sitting on this side of the fence, it just seems that we've got to do something different for that community, and if we don't, failing those students is not an option,” Trustee Lori Moya said during a work session Monday night.

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Education
4:57 pm
Mon August 13, 2012

Austin School Board to Debate Single-Sex Schools Tonight

Pearce and Garcia Middle Schools would be become single-sex campuses under an AISD proposal to be discussed by the board tonight.
Nathan Bernier, KUT News

An Austin ISD proposal to convert two northeast campuses into a pair of single-sex middle schools will go before the school board tonight.

They won’t take action on the plan for Pearce and Garcia Middle Schools, but board members will have a chance to discuss what has become a controversial recommendation.

Members of the public had a lot of questions for the district during a series of open forums on the proposal. This particular meeting at LBJ High School got heated and some parents said they left feeling that their questions about the benefits of single-sex education weren’t answered. Even Cheryl Bradley – the school board member who represents the district and has been a strong proponent of single-sex schools – told KXAN afterwards that it was time to “stop and rethink” the idea.

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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 hopes to have the graduation rate up to 90 percent by 2014.
Laura Rice, KUT News

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.

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AM Update 7/9/12
7:29 am
Mon July 9, 2012

AM Update: STAAR Retesting Begins, Legislators Look at Funding, Durant to Olympics

Kevin Durant, right, is nominated to play for Team USA in the 2012 Olympics in London.

STAAR Retesting Begins Today

Students across Texas who didn’t pass subjects of the STAAR exam will begin retaking the tests today.

Last year’s ninth-graders were the only students who had to pass the tests to graduate on time as seniors. Next year, the passing requirement will affect both ninth and tenth-graders. The STAAR test will continue to phase-in to each grade, eventually completely replacing the TAKS test.

Also starting next year, the STAAR exam will make up 15 percent of a high school student’s final grade in a subject.

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