1:35 pm
Thu November 3, 2011

Report: 32,000 School Jobs Eliminated By State Budget Cuts

State lawmakers trimmed about $5 billion from education spending in the last legislative session, which led to the elimination of 32,000 school jobs, according to a report.
Liang Shi/KUT News

Texas public school districts have an estimated 32,000 fewer employees than they may have had if the state hadn’t cut more than $5 billion in public education spending during the legislative session. That includes almost 12,000 fewer teachers.

The numbers are from this report released by an Austin-based school finance consulting firm. Moak, Casey & Associates recently surveyed school districts across the state. 60 participated.

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1:26 pm
Tue November 1, 2011

Nation’s Report Card Shows Mixed Results For Texas

This chart shows Texas performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) over the past five tests. Hold your mouse over the bars to see the testing years and specific values. 

Texas public schools have shown few gains in how well they teach reading, but schools are making significant progress in math, according to one of the largest and most important nationwide assessments in the United States. African American and Hispanic students in Texas are also outperforming many of their counterparts in other states.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) – often referred to as the Nation’s Report Card – tests a sampling of fourth and eighth graders across the country every two years.

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12:21 pm
Fri October 28, 2011

How Texas' Education Funding System Encourages Artificial Turf

House Park Field is one of three major Austin ISD fields with artificial turf.
Photo by Teresa Vieira

The Texas school finance system is notoriously complicated, which makes it difficult for average people to have informed debates about how a large portion of their property taxes are spent.

Here’s an example: School districts are funded through two separate property taxes. One is called M&O, for maintenance and operations. That tax rate pays for stuff like teacher salaries, water bills, electricity bills, textbooks and so on.

The second tax rate is called I&S, for interest and sinking. That money can only be used to pay down school district debt on school buildings, facilities, and other capital expenditures.

Now here is where it gets interesting. The tax you pay for M&O is subject to the state’s so-called Robin Hood law, a rule that takes money from wealthier districts and redistributes it to poorer districts in order to provide “substantially equal access” to education funding per student.

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11:28 am
Mon October 24, 2011

AISD Board To Get Some Specifics on Facilities Proposals

After the Austin Independent School District’s last attempt at adopting a ten year master plan for its 12 million square feet of property was derailed in the spring, the AISD school board is scheduled tonight to hear some of the most specific proposals yet from Superintendent Meria Carstarphen on how to address issues such as overcrowding.

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5:08 pm
Mon October 17, 2011

Impoverished Texas Student Population Ticks Past 59 Percent

This chart shows the increase in economically disadvantaged students in Texas, as a percentage of the total student population.
Image courtesy Texas Education Agency

While Gov. Perry tours the country arguing that Texas is an economic powerhouse, new data from the state’s education agency shows 2.9 million public school students are economically disadvantaged. The number represents 59.1 percent of the student population in the 2010-11 school year. It's a slight uptick from 58.9 percent the previous year.

Ten years ago, 49.2 percent of students were counted as impoverished. The total number of economically disadvantaged students increased from 2 million in the 2000-01 school year to 2.9 million in the 2010-11 school year, an increase of 45 percent. 

Economically disadvantaged students include those whose parents’ income falls below the federal poverty line. That’s $22,350 for a family of four.

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12:48 pm
Thu October 13, 2011

TPPF Higher Ed Guru: 7 Solutions a "Good Start"

Photo illustration by Todd Wiseman

Thomas Lindsay, the man recently selected to head the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Center for Higher Education, is no stranger to controversy. That may be considered an asset in the position, given the foundation’s role in igniting much of the debate that has gripped Texas higher ed this year.

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10:21 am
Tue September 27, 2011

School Equity Lawsuit Gains Districts

Texas will once again be challenged in court over its school funding system.
Photo by Daniel Reese for KUT News

About 100 school districts have now signed on to a looming lawsuit against the state for cuts to public education. The lawsuit is being filed by the Equity Center, a non-profit school equity funding advocacy organization. In an e-mail today the Center said it would release a list of districts next week -- after a state-wide school board convention in Austin.

The Center says the state's per-pupil funding remains uneven, with some districts getting as much as $10,000 per student, while others get half that.

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10:01 pm
Mon September 26, 2011

AISD Superintendent Carstarphen's Contract Extended

Meria Carstarphen in a file photo from 2009, shortly before she was hired by the Austin ISD school board.
Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

The superintendent who took the helm of the largest school district in Central Texas two years ago just had her contract extended for an additional year. Austin ISD Superintendent Meria Carstarphen's contract now expires in June 2014. The extension did not include a pay raise or increase in benefits. 

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9:21 pm
Mon September 26, 2011

Austin School Board Approves New Voting Map

The new redistricting map approved by the Austin school board Monday night. See a larger version of this image here:

The Austin ISD school board gave a redrawn school district voting map the green light tonight in an 8-1 vote, clearing the way for the proposal to be sent to the US Justice Department for approval. Texas is among the jurisdictions that require federal approval to redraw voting boundaries under provisions of the Voting Rights Act intended to prevent minority groups from having their electoral influence reduced. 

Several members of the Mueller neighborhood, a mixed-use development just east of I-35, protested the changes during a public comment portion of the board meeting. At least three speakers said they wanted to be included in East Austin's District 1, an area that includes the highest proportion of African-American voters in the entire school district and the second largest percentage of Hispanic voters.

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11:12 am
Mon September 26, 2011

AISD Withholds New Facility Master Plan Recommendation Until Tonight

Austin ISD headquarters downtown on West 6th Street.
Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

The Austin Independent School District operates more than 100 schools in the city covering 12 million square feet. Some of those schools are overcrowded. Others that are way under-capacity.

A plan developed this year to deal with that was shelved, after school board members found the notion of school closures politically unpalatable.  A revised version of that facilities master plan will be unveiled tonight.

In an unusual move, the Austin Independent School District is refusing to release the proposed facility master plan to the public until immediately before it is presented to the school board.

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3:59 pm
Thu September 22, 2011

UT Will Build New Supercomputer with Dell and Intel

UT, Dell and the National Science Foundation are working together to build a new supercomputer, to be named "Stampede."
Photo by Caleb Bryant Miller for KUT News.

By January 2013, the University of Texas at Austin will be the host of a new world-class supercomputer as part of a National Science Foundation grant. "Stampede" will be built in a partnership between the Texas Advanced Computing Center, Dell, and Intel and kept at the J.J. Pickle Research Campus - home of another NSF-funded high-performance computer system, Ranger.

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12:11 pm
Tue September 20, 2011

Deadline Looms For Class Size Increase Requests

Texas school districts have until October 4 to request an increase in student to teacher ratios.
Photo by Max Klingensmith

The state legislature slashed $4 billion from public education this year, forcing many Central Texas school districts to lay off teachers. School districts are now considering whether they want to raise student-to-teacher ratios.

State law limits those ratios at 22-to-1 from Kindergarten through the 4th grade. School districts have until October 3 to request an increase of 24-to-1.

University of Texas education professor Christopher Brown says parents need to be aware of the potential impact in their kid’s classroom.

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4:58 pm
Mon September 19, 2011

UT President Given Power to Tackle Conference Issue

University of Texas President Bill Powers announces UT's commitment to the Big 12 Conference.
Photo by Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune

The University of Texas System regents today gave UT President Bill Powers the authority to take any necessary actions regarding conference realignment. Hours earlier, the University of Oklahoma regents empowered their president, David Boren, with the same authority.

The action by both universities is identical to a move Texas A&M University System regents made in August when they granted such authority to Texas A&M President  R. Bowen Loftin — two weeks before A&M officially notified the Big 12 Conference that it wanted out.

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12:15 pm
Mon September 19, 2011

Hispanic Student Population Increases at UT Austin

Photo by Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

The ratio of Hispanic students enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin rose from 12 percent in 2001 to 17.5 percent this year, according to preliminary numbers from the university.  While the percentage of freshman Hispanic students is down this year, UT-Austin’s Hispanic student population of 8,975 is a new record high for the university.

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2:43 pm
Fri September 16, 2011

Texas Approves Charter School For Deion Sanders

Photo by Michael J. Cargill

Former Dallas Cowboys cornerback Deion Sanders' charter school application was among eight approved by the Texas State Board of Education today.

The decision came after a brief discussion during which members raised questions about the schools' academic rigor and Sanders' involvement.

"I have no idea what the applicant plans to do in the classroom, how they plan to instruct the TEKS," said Michael Soto, D-San Antonio, adding, " I have no idea what they plan to offer in a day to day classroom experience."

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12:45 pm
Wed September 14, 2011

Texas SAT Scores Show Broad Declines

A sample copy of the SAT test
Photo by KUT

Average scores on the SAT tests by Texas high school students plummeted last school year in all three subject areas: reading, writing and math. The national numbers also declined to their lowest levels on record.

Here in Texas, the average math score for students, including all public and private schools, dropped two points to 502. Critical reading scores declined four points to 479. Writing scores were down seven points to 465.

National scores declined also, but were still higher than the Texas averages at 506, 494 and 483 for math, critical reading and writing, respectively. The maximum score on the SAT test is 800.

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5:02 pm
Mon September 12, 2011

AISD Considers Process to Redraw School Boundaries

School trustee Lori Moya leans over to say something to school board president Mark Williams during a board meeting in June.
Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

The Austin Independent School District is about to begin a long and likely contentious process that could end in school attendance boundaries being redrawn.

Tonight, school board members will look at the district’s plan to develop a committee that would examine attendance zones. It’s all kind of dry at this point – but that could change if the district starts tinkering with which students go to what schools.

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4:46 pm
Thu August 25, 2011

UT Systems Launches "Framework" Plan

The UT Board of Regents approved a $243.6 million framework plan that is supposed to change the way UT universities operate.
Photo by Daniel Reese for KUT News.

UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa introduced a nine-point plan to increase undergraduate access and graduation rates, emerging research opportunities, teaching awards for faculty and improving efficiency and transparency. The UT Board of Regents voted unanimously to implement Cigarroa’s framework and commit $243.6 million to it. You can watch his address here.

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3:57 pm
Thu August 25, 2011

UT Professors Develop Online Game to Help Autistic Children

Two University of Texas professors are developing a free online game called LifeisGame which may help autistic children express their emotions.
Image courtesy Yan Zhang, UT School of Information

Two University of Texas professors are developing a game that could affect the lives of children diagnosed with autism.

Yan Zhang, an assistant professor at UT-Austin's School of Information and engineering professor J.K. Aggarwal are working to create a free online game called "LifeIsGame" designed  to help autistic children communicate.

Zhang said the game may address a component of autistic children's lives that often gets overlooked: their emotions.

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2:15 pm
Wed August 24, 2011

Austin Non-Profit Girlstart Expands Nationally

Austin non-profit aimed at drawing girls into STEM education is getting ready to expand nationally.
Horia Varlan

A local organization that wants to close the gender gap in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education is beginning to branch out across the United States. Girlstart began in Austin in 1997, and provides free after-school programs, summer camps, and Saturday classes for girls.

“STEM is a national priority. There aren’t enough graduates in America than can fill STEM jobs,” Girlstart executive director Tamara Hudgins told KUT News.

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