Education

Education
3:34 pm
Thu December 22, 2011

AISD Joins New School Finance Lawsuit Against State

Photo by Nathan Bernier, KUT News

The Austin and Round Rock school districts have joined more than sixty school districts responsible for educating 1.5 million children in the fourth recent lawsuit against the state over its school finance system. With one-third of Texas’ student population, it’s the largest group of school districts ever to file suit against the state over how it funds education, according to plaintiff attorneys Thompson and Horton.

“The group represents rural, big town, small town, suburban, urban, fast growth, property poor, property wealthy, and average wealth districts,” the law firm wrote in a news release.

AISD trustees voted to join the lawsuit in October. The suit says the state has increased the academic requirements for school districts, but failed to provide funding to pay for it.

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Education
10:31 am
Thu December 22, 2011

Texas Schools Grapple With Big Budget Cuts

What's known as Middle School No. 8 in Leander, Texas, was supposed to help relieve overcrowding in the rapidly growing community. But after significant statewide cuts to education, the district can't afford to open the school.
Marisa Penaloza NPR

Originally published on Wed December 21, 2011 11:01 pm

School funding in Texas is in turmoil. State lawmakers slashed more than $4 billion from education this school year — one of the largest cuts in state history — and more than 12,000 teachers and support staff have been laid off.

Academic programs and transportation have been cut to the bone. Promising reforms are on hold or on the chopping block. Next year, the cuts could go even deeper.

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Education
4:27 pm
Wed December 21, 2011

Video of Contentious AISD Board Meeting Posted Online

Rarely do Austin school board meetings get this heated. But a marathon session on Monday drew more than a hundred people, most of them disgruntled over the elected body’s push to bring a charter school into the district to operate college prep programs at two East Austin schools.

After a public input session in which opponents of the IDEA charter school plan lambasted board members for moving quickly to adopt the proposal, trustees held a lengthy debate and ultimately approved the plan in a 6-3 vote.

In case you missed the meeting or wish to relive it again, the AISD board has posted the full six hours on YouTube. Check out part one above. You can also watch part two and part three.

Education
11:07 am
Wed December 21, 2011

Who Voted For and Against IDEA Charter School Deal

The Austin ISD school board.
Photo by Nathan Bernier, KUT News

We received a few emails from people asking to know specifically which members of the Austin school board voted for and against a proposal to establish an in-district charter school program at Allan Elementary and Eastside Memorial High School.

We neglected to list the specific trustees in our story on the 6-3 vote to contract with South Texas-based IDEA Public Schools, so here’s how the vote panned out:

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University of texas
4:55 pm
Tue December 20, 2011

UT Dean: Obama Twitter Remark “Offensive & Embarrassing”

Screen capture of Twitter

A Twitter post by the president of the University of Texas at Austin College Republicans was “offensive and embarrassing,” according to the University of Texas dean of students Soncia Reagins-Lilly.

Cassandra Wright Tweeted early on Sunday morning: “My president’s black, he snorts a lot of crack. Holla. #2012 #Obama.” Her account has since been made private.

“We embrace free speech and encourage the open exchange of ideas,” Reagins-Lilly said in a news release. “But we also urge all students, alumni and friends to act respectfully and adhere to The University of Texas at Austin honor code which calls for ‘integrity, honesty, trust, fairness, and respect toward peers and community.’”

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Education
4:01 am
Tue December 20, 2011

AISD Board Votes 6-3 to Contract With IDEA Charter School

Opponents of the measure have vowed to keep fighting against its implementation.
Photo by Nathan Bernier, KUT News

A divided Austin school board has approved a controversial proposal to bring a charter school into the district. AISD says it will help improve academic performance at some of its struggling Eastside schools. But opponents of the charter school project have vowed to keep fighting.

Immediately after last night’s vote, which came shortly before 1 a.m., some community members shouted “Shame!” at school board members.

The board voted 6 to 3 to sign a contract with IDEA Public Schools – a charter school operator from South Texas. Superintendent Meria Carstarphen said the urgent need to improve low performing schools merited bold action.

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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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Education
3:25 pm
Tue December 13, 2011

AISD Board Adopts Major Changes For 2012-13 School Year

The AISD board adopted several proposal last night, including one $5.5 million plan intended to reduce overcrowding at north central Austin elementary schools.
Photo by Nathan Bernier, KUT News

So much community and media attention was focused last night on Austin ISD’s controversial proposal to outsource an East Austin college prep program to a South Texas charter school operator that we didn’t have time to tell you about other sweeping overhauls the school board approved for next year.

Here’s a recap of what the board approved.

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Education
8:04 pm
Mon December 12, 2011

Carstarphen Unsure If She Has Votes To Pass Charter School Deal

Austin ISD Superintendent Meria Carstarphen says she doesn't know if enough school board members will support her controversial proposal to create an in-district charter school program. The board is scheduled to vote tonight on the deal.

"I actually probably don't spend a lot of time trying to count votes or influence our trustees in that kind of way," Carstarphen said in a press briefing with reporters. You can see her full response by watching the video above.  

Board members appeared split on whether to adopt the issue at a work session last Monday. Board members Robert Schneider, Annette LoVoi and Tamala Barksdale were as vocal in their reservations as they were in prior meetings.

Carstarphen needs at least five of the board’s nine members to vote in favor of the IDEA charter school proposal for it to pass. All board members are present for tonight's meeting. 

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Education
10:11 am
Mon December 12, 2011

Tonight’s AISD Board Meeting: What to Expect

Tonight's meeting is scheduled to start at 7 at AISD Headquarters at 1111 West Sixth Street.
Photo by Nathan Bernier, KUT News

As far as school board meetings go, tonight's should be among the most exciting of the year. Trustees are set to vote on a roster of plans that could bring significant changes to the school district in 2012-13. Here’s a quick guide to the evening:

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Education
4:52 pm
Thu December 8, 2011

Texas Charter Schools Get a Pass On Some Requirements

The San Juan Campus of Idea Public Schools
Photo by Joel Martinez, The Texas Tribune

A crucial vote is scheduled for Monday by the Austin ISD school board. Trustees will decide whether to contract with a charter school operator from the Rio Grande Valley to develop an in-district charter school for children in East Austin.

Some school board members have expressed hesitation about a partnership with IDEA Public Schools. One of Trustee Annette LoVoi’s concerns focused on the transparency of governance at IDEA compared to the Austin ISD.

“We are a school board. We are transparent. We hold open meetings. We disclose all sorts of things,” LoVoi said. “I’d like to see a version of that undertaken by any entity that we contract with.”

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Education
12:03 pm
Thu December 8, 2011

Tensions Develop Between Austin ISD and its Teachers Association

Photo courtesy laffy4k http://www.flickr.com/photos/laffy4k/

Education Austin has been the lone organization representing AISD staff for the past twelve years, but now Superintendent Meria Carstarphen is opening the door to changing that, and the teacher’s association is not happy about it.

"This is an attempt to marginalize our voice. And we're disappointed that the district is taking this path," Education Austin co-president Ken Zafaris told the Austin American-Statesman. He accuses Carstarphen of seeking to punish Education Austin for its opposition to a proposal to create an in-district charter school in East Austin.

But Carstarphen denies anything of the sort, telling the Statesman that most AISD staff chose not to be represented by Education Austin, and she wants an organization that will serve more employees.

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Education
3:14 pm
Wed December 7, 2011

UT Chancellor Meets With Obama, Higher Ed Leaders in DC

University of Texas Chancellor Francisco G. Cigarroa during Joint Committee on Oversight of Higher Education Governance, Excellence & Tansparency on September 21st, 2011
Marjorie Kamys Cotera, Texas Tribune

University of Texas System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa was one of a dozen higher education leaders from around the country invited to the White House on Monday for a meeting with President Obama about the issues facing colleges and universities.

Cigarroa told the Tribune on Tuesday that the president spent roughly an hour with his guests, including Carnegie Mellon University President Jared Cohon, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill Chancellor Holden Thorp, and Jamie Merisotis, the president and CEO of the Lumina Foundation for Education, among others.

“There’s no doubt that he has a significant interest in higher education,” Cigarroa said of Obama. “He’s very concerned about the increase in student loan debt.”

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Education
11:48 am
Wed December 7, 2011

Report: AISD Scores Better In Math Than Other Urban Districts

AISD was among 21 districts tested in this report by the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
Image courtesy NAEP

Students in the Austin Independent School District are outscoring other large urban districts – including Houston and Dallas – in one of the most-watched math tests in the country. The National Assessment of Educational Progress’s (NAEP) report tested fourth and eighth grade students in 21 urban districts across the United States.

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Education
12:11 pm
Tue December 6, 2011

AISD Trustee Bradley Frosty Towards “Pre-K Village” Proposal

Photo by Nathan Bernier, KUT News

A plan by the Austin Independent School District to set up a pre-kindergarten program in a cluster of portable buildings at Webb Middle School – something the district calls a “Pre-K Village” – is receiving a cold shoulder from the Austin ISD board member whose district includes the campus.

“I just have difficulty with having four-year-olds in portables in inclement weather, the cafeteria being a portable, and the physical education space being a portable,” Trustee Cheryl Bradley said during last night’s school board meeting. “Even the design I’ve seen gives me heartburn.”

AISD is facing a district-wide problem of elementary school overcrowding. But this proposal focuses on the elementary schools in north central Austin – Barrington, Cook, Graham and Hart – that are overcrowded, even with portables. In some cases, lunch has to start at 10 a.m. and end at 1:30 p.m. just to give all the kids a chance to eat in the cafeteria.

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