A bill that would have let millions of people refinance their student loans at a lower interest rate has failed in the Senate, after Republicans objected that it included a tax on the wealthy to pay for it. The measure would have allowed people with older loans to benefit from today's low interest rates.

The bill from Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., didn't get past a procedural vote, falling by a 56-38 vote. Called the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act, it was shot down days after President Obama urged Congress to help ease the burden of student debt.

Nathan Bernier/KUT

East Austin resident Archette Alexander remembers when she took her son out of the neighborhood public elementary school and put him in a charter school. She says teachers had lost their passion due to all of the testing.

Now, Alexander’s youngest daughter is three, and she’s interested in putting her back in the school district – at AISD's early childhood center.

“The passion the other teachers have gives me hope as a parent that kids can thrive here,” Alexander says. 

(This post was updated at 3:24 p.m. ET.)

President Obama signed an order on Monday that expands the number of Americans whose student loan payments will be capped at 10 percent of their monthly incomes.

CNN reports the new order would allow an additional 5 million borrowers to take advantage of the cap beginning in December 2015.

Bloomberg adds:

A noble institution? A good show? A tedious quarter-hour of lame jokes told under the hot sun? The American commencement address can be all of these things.

We skipped and slogged through 50 of the most popular commencement speeches on YouTube - looking for inspiration, wisdom, amusement, corny jokes and clichés - to bring you this mashup of highlights and lowlights.

Nathan Bernier/KUT

Members of the Texas House Committee on Public Education are wrestling with how to evaluate teacher performance in modern classrooms. And while educators and administrators agree the current system needs overhauling, there's little agreement on what will replace it.

In advance of today's hearing, Texas Education Agency Commissioner Michael Williams said in a letter that current teacher evaluation criteria – the Professional Development and Appraisal System (PDAS) – has "outlived its usefulness."

Patty Hill, a math teacher at Austin's Kealing Middle School, agrees. She told lawmakers today she’s afraid that by adopting a “flipped classroom” model – posting lectures online for students to view at home, and working collaboratively on 'homework' in the classroom – she is opening herself up for negative evaluations.

Jon Shapley for KUT News

An Austin charter school slated for closure by the state may be getting a second chance.

The Texas Education Agency had ordered American Youthworks to close by next month. But the school went to court and argued everything was a misunderstanding.

On Friday, a judge agreed to hear the school's case – possibly extending the school's life for at least one more semester.

Jon Shapley for KUT News

Elgin Middle School sixth grader Allison Graves sits at a computer in math class, using a program called Think Through Math to practice fractions.

“Your friend gave you a bag of candy," she reads. "There are 36 red candies and 27 green candies. What is the ratio of green candies to red candies?”

The online math program takes Graves through each lesson step by step. She collects points for correct answers and competes against classmates and other Texas students.

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News.

The fate of an Austin charter school that has run a dropout recovery program for more than 30 years will be decided later this month.

American Youthworks faces closure under a new law that allows the Texas Education Agency to revoke licenses from underperforming charter schools, thus opening those licenses to other organizations.

TEA spokesperson Debbie Ratcliffe says Senate Bill 2 is pretty clear. That’s the law passed last year that, among other things, gave TEA teeth to revoke the licenses of failing charter schools. “If a school has received the state’s lowest, either academic or financial, rating for three straight years, it automatically is closed,” Ratcliffe says.

Veronica Zaragovia, KUT News

Update: High schools in Texas are one step closer to getting state-funded materials to teach courses in Mexican-American studies after a vote today by the Texas State Board of Education. 

Board members voted to ask publishers to develop textbooks for Mexican-American studies, along with three other social studies courses: African-American, Asian-American and Native-American studies. But the board stopped short of developing a statewide course on the topics. A final vote is scheduled for later this week.

Eanes ISD

Eanes ISD has named Dr. Tom Leonard as the lone finalist to take the place of retiring superintendent Dr. Nola Wellman.  

Eanes ISD Board President Rob Hargett calls Dr. Leonard “a successful, student-centered, seasoned superintendent in a high-performing district, roughly the size and structure of Eanes ISD.”

Dr. Leonard served as superintendent of the Barrington 220 district in Illinois for the past seven years and has more than 20 years of experience working in education.

Laura Rice, KUT News

It’s becoming more common for kids at school to share a classroom – or a lunchroom – with a student with food allergies. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says as many as one in 15 kids in the U.S. have food allergies – and those numbers appear to be on the rise.

The issue is a serious one because kids can become very sick or die from exposure to certain foods. But kids also may feel isolated or be bullied because of the precautions they have to take.

Some local schools and parents are taking a unique route towards promoting awareness and acceptance.

KUT News

For the first time, more than 5 million students are enrolled in Texas public schools. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) published a report Tuesday that the state hit the milestone last school year when 5,075,840 students were enrolled.

The population of Hispanic students had the largest numerical increase, growing by 64,903 in one year.

Rice University demographer Steve Murdoch, who used to run the U.S. Census Bureau, says the future of the Texas economy will be determined largely by how well those students are educated. 

Lynn Romero for KUT News

Yesterday, Republican candidate for Texas Governor Greg Abbott released a proposal to improve early childhood education in Texas.

During a press conference, Abbott said expanding state-funded pre-kindergarten programs without addressing the quality of instruction “would be an act of negligence and waste.”

Today, educators from groups endorsing Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis gathered in front of north Austin's Lucy Read Pre-kindergarten School to say that expanding pre-k is "not a waste."

Lynn Romero for KUT News

Some kids in Pflugerville got a special, guest visitor today. George Selvie, Dallas Cowboys Defensive End, was at Ruth Barron Elementary Thursday morning encouraging kids to eat a healthy breakfast.

"It's important for us because, as in recent years, they're saying now kids are obese so having the opportunity with Fuel Up to Play 60 to come out here and talk to the kids, letting them know that eating healthy is great, you know their gonna try to go out there and do it," said Selvie.

A ruling will be issued today on the school finance trial.

What should you know about Central Texas schools this election season?  

In a word: Bonds.

Bond packages can be convoluted, making them easily misunderstood or overlooked. But bond elections have become an important source of income for area school districts as funds elsewhere shrink.

Texas Tribune

The SAT, a standardized test that for many students is an intimidating hurdle to clear en route to college admissions, is about to undergo a major redesign. Among the changes being announced by The College Board in Austin on Wednesday: The test will revert to a 1600-point scale, and the essay portion will be optional and scored separately.

According to the Texas Education Agency, more than 182,000 Texas public high school students took the SAT, the ACT (another test used in college admissions developed by ACT, Inc.) or both exams in 2011, the most recent year for which data is available. That total represents nearly 69 percent of all public high school graduates in Texas.

Veronica Zaragovia, KUT News

UPDATE: The National Weather Service curtailed the winter storm warning issued Monday. It is now in effect until 9 a.m. for Bastrop, Burnet, Travis, and Williamson Counties. 


School districts in the Austin area are announcing delayed starts for Tuesday morning, due to the winter weather. 

Nathan Bernier, KUT News.

Update:  The Austin School Board voted to reinstate three-year contracts for teachers and principals in a five to four vote Monday night. At the same meeting, school district officials also proposed to to close a projected $32 million budget gap for Fiscal Year 2015. 

The decision to move to three-year contracts comes after the school district and teacher's union, Education Austin, came to an impasse over the issue last month. Austin ISD went from three to one year contracts in 2011, when the state legislature cut billions in public education funding, also forcing the district to lay off more than 1,000 employees.

Jon Shapley for KUT News

This article is part of KUT's year-long series called Turning the Corner, which takes a look at Austin's Dove Springs neighborhood. For decades, the neighborhood has had a negative reputation. Now, many community members are trying to change the perception of the 78744 zip code. Listen to those stories here.

In low-income neighborhoods around Austin, 87 percent of children entering kindergarten are considered unprepared for school, which means many of them lack basic literacy skills. At Mendez Middle School in Austin’s Dove Springs neighborhood, that struggle is obvious. Last year, less than half of Mendez sixth graders passed the state standardized test for reading.

Many area school kids are in class today despite the Presidents' Day holiday. They’re making up for a day missed due to winter weather.

City of Austin Transportation crews are working to manually re-program flashing school zone lights warning drivers to slow down. But only about one-sixth were ready before the start of school this morning.

“If a driver comes up to a school zone and they know that the school is in session and the flasher aren’t going, they should use that same level of caution, drive slower and be aware of students in the area," city spokesperson Samantha Park said.