Education

Austin ISD, the University of Texas, Austin Community College, Texas A&M University, charter schools, legislative issues, and anything else related to K-12, public education, higher education and workforce development in Central Texas, Travis County, and Austin.

KUT News

Early voting for the Austin Independent School District $892 million bond begins Monday. The bond is split into four propositions, based on a variety of projects from systemic repairs to improvements to relieve overcrowding. 

AISD says enrollment has grown by about 1,000 students per year, two to three times faster than the state average. The district is hoping to relieve some of the overcrowding that's come with that growth. Prop 2 would borrow $234 million to do that. Some of it goes toward school security, but most of the money is earmarked for expanding existing schools and building new ones. 

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

An effort to derail the Austin school district’s bond election was unsuccessful Friday.

A Travis County Court judge refused a request for a temporary restraining order to stop the vote. The order was sought by the Travis County Taxpayer Union. The group contends the official ballot language doesn’t say anything about how much each proposition would cost voters. 

Kate McGee, KUT News

Sixty percent of students in the Austin school district are Hispanic. And more than half of those students are English language learners with parents who do not speak English or are also learning the language.

That can make it difficult for some parents to stay involved in their children’s education, and AISD is trying to bridge that gap with La Que Buena, 104.3-FM.

Shannan Muskop, Texas Tribune

Are Texas 4- and 5-year-olds getting tested too much? State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte think so.

Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, is the author of Senate Bill 1608, which would restrict the bubble-in testing that school districts and the Texas Education Agency could require for pre-K and kindergarten students.

Flickr user TylerMcQuarrie, bit.ly/15K08Z2

Since the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, school districts across the country are focusing on security. The Austin Independent School District is asking its voters whether it can use some of its $892 million proposed bond package to improve school security.

At $233 million, Proposition Two is the largest of the propositions in the bond package. $23 million of those funds would go toward a variety of security improvements district wide. The largest would be to replace the district’s 20 year-old radio system.

KUT News

The Travis County Taxpayers Union (TCTU) filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the Austin Independent School District over its $892 million bond package residents will vote on in a special election May 11. The district says the bond would be used to pay for a variety of capital projects to ease overcrowding, improve technology, security and other systemic repairs.

The TCTU says AISD failed to include in the ballot language the maximum property tax rate levied on residents or if the tax rate is unlimited.

flickr.com/namoscato

The Austin Independent School District is estimating it will have a $45 million shortfall in its 2014 budget. The district is holding a community meeting tonight to discuss spending priorities.

AISD officials say there are a few reasons for the projected budget shortfall. Most of the deficit is money that will be taken or “recaptured” from AISD – a district considered property rich. That money is then distributed to districts that are considered poorer.

Darren Braun for Texas Monthly

As Austin ISD and other school districts across Texas hunker down and power through another round of state standardized tests this week, lawmakers are making moves that suggest they think the testing regime has gone too far.

House Bill 5, for example, would reduce the number of tests students need to pass to graduate from 15 to 5. This is happening in a state that gave birth to the "academic accountability" movement. 

Texas Monthly senior editor Nate Blakeslee examines the issue in the May edition of the magazine, on news stands now. Listen to our interview with him above and read his article at TexasMonthly.com.

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

The Texas Education Commissioner has until June to decide if Eastside Memorial High School in Austin will be shut down for poor academic progress.

The Austin Independent School District Board approved a plan last night that will guide their steps in case the school is closed. But AISD hopes instead the district will be allowed to partner with an outside group to run the high school.

Bobby Blanchard, KUT News

The Travis County Taxpayers Union filed an ethics complaint with the Austin Independent School District, saying the proposed $892 million bond initiative on election ballots next month asks too much of taxpayers.

The group's treasurer, Donald Zimmerman, said the district’s current budget already covers the increase in maintenance cost that the proposition requests. Zimmerman also alleged that AISD acted unethically by providing an estimated cost to average taxpayers on signs promoting the bond.

Mose Buchele, KUT News

The University of Texas Police Department is undergoing a review of its services. Assessors with the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) are examining all UTPD operations to determine whether the department deserves accreditation.

Accreditation isn't mandatory but is seen as a representation of public safety excellence.

CSCOPE

Update: The Texas Education Agency reports the State Board of Education approved a resolution today supporting a review of CSCOPE material. Thirteen SBOE members voted in favor of the measure. Two abstained.

Some conservatives have argued  CSCOPE has an anti-American bias.

According to the TEA's website:

CSCOPE is a curriculum management system created by Texas Education Service Centers with assistance from content experts. It is now used in 875 public school districts, charter schools and private schools in Texas, which educate 34 percent of the state's total student population.

Nathan Bernier/KUT News

The Austin Independent School District is hosting a community meeting tonight on its 2014 budget and its $892 million bond proposal that's up for a vote next month. 

AISD wants to issue bonds to fund capital projects throughout the district. The money wouldn’t be used for day-to-day expenses, but for things like technology upgrades, more classrooms and increased security.

KUT News

Some Texas lawmakers are looking to create an academic assessment tool to measure and compare the teaching abilities of the state’s public universities.

Today, members of the Senate Committee for Higher Education took up SB 436. The bill would make it a requirement for Texas universities to issue students a learning assessment before the first day of class, and during the last semester before graduation. The assessment would act as a tool to monitor student growth.

Veronica Zaragovia

Last month the Texas House passed its education reform bill – HB 5. Today members of the Senate Education Committee took the measure up and began the process of hammering out differences between the House and Senate on the future of education in Texas. 

YouTube

A video posted on You Tube is pleading with state officials not to close Eastside Memorial High School.

The school is at risk of closure or state takeover if the Austin Independent School District does not choose an acceptable outside partner to run the school and improve the school's performance. 

Nathan Bernier/KUT News

Some teachers organizations are lobbying Texas House members to stop the progress of Senate Bill 2, a bill that would expand the number of charter school licenses in Texas.  

SB-2 would gradually add 90 charter school licenses in Texas by the year 2019.  

Liang Shi, KUT News

Eighteen people will make up a search committee for the University of Texas at Austin's Dell Medical School's founding dean.

Like most search committees, the one for the inaugural medical school dean is composed of local deans at UT, professors and students. This search committee also has deans from other universities in the UT System and members from Seton Healthcare Family and Central Health, who are partners in the new medical school initiative.

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.

Photo by KUT News.

The last time the Texas Legislature approved construction expenses for public universities and community colleges was in 2006. This session, lawmakers are considering a tuition revenue bond bill that would approve billions for new buildings. 

University administrators told lawmakers they need millions of dollars for construction projects on their space-strapped campuses. They cited skyrocketing student enrollment numbers, aging buildings and new research projects as reasons to lay the bricks and mortar.

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