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.

Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

Facing a budget crisis, the Austin Independent School District is taking initial steps to sell two of its largest administrative properties: the 2.75 acre headquarters that sits on prime real estate on upscale W. 6th St., and the 4.4 acre Baker Center in trendy Hyde Park.

Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

Austin public schools superintendent Meria Carstarphen is attempting to pick up and dust off a politically risky facilities master plan that was reluctantly accepted this spring by the nine elected volunteers who govern the largest school district in Central Texas.

Photo by Ryan Murphy, Morgan Smith and Todd Wiseman

Whether final reductions to the state public education spending end up closer to $7.8 billion or $4 billion, how much districts will individually bear depends on how — or if — the Legislature rethinks the state’s school finance system. 

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Mike McKinney, the Chancellor of the Texas A&M University system, announced today that he'll step down as of July 1, 2011.

McKinney became A&M System chancellor in November 2006. Since then, system-wide enrollment in has increased from 103,000 students to almost 120,000 students.

“The 25 million taxpayers in the state of Texas certainly have received a significant return on their investment in the A&M System,” said McKinney in a letter to A&M employees.

Image courtesy Austin ISD

Until last summer, if you lived in a home that was deemed to be a historical landmark, you could get a big break on your school property tax bill. That came to an end in August 2010, when the Austin ISD school board decided to suspend those exemptions in the face of a looming fiscal crisis. Tonight, the board is scheduled to talk about whether to reinstate the program.

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The University of Texas at Austin community is mourning the loss of senior vice president Shirley Bird Perry- who passed away Wednesday of cancer. She was 74.

After graduating from UT in the 1950s, Shirley Bird Perry started her career as program director of the Texas Union student center. She also served over a decade as a vice chancellor with the UT System.

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This afternoon, the University of Texas System released much-anticipated data on faculty "productivity" — noting, however, that the 821-page spreadsheet is in a raw draft form that has not been fully verified and "cannot yield accurate analysis, interpretations or conclusions."

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Classes at Austin Community College will be a little more expensive next year.

The ACC Board of Trustees cite declining state funding as the reason for the increase of $5 per credit hour for Fall 2011.  That means that students in the ACC taxation district would pay $52 per credit hour.  Out-of-district students tuition will rise to $194 per hour.  The board already voted to raise tuition for Summer semester by another $5 per hour.  They also expect they'll have to raise tuition again for Spring 2012.

Dr. Richard Rhodes was named the lone finalist last night to become CEO and president of Austin Community College. The ACC Board of Trustees voted unanimously to approve Rhodes. He is currently the president of El Paso Community College.

Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

An anti-bullying bill that passed Texas Senate today would require school districts to adopt a policy to prohibit, prevent and investigate bullying, both in person and online.

Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

The Austin Independent School District took a big step last night toward building a district-wide performing arts center. They agreed to buy a 4.5 acre, $4 million plot of land near the Dell Children’s Medical Center to construct the building.  But that construction might not begin for several years.

The Austin ISD has been trying to build a performing arts center for decades.  But over the past few months, board members have been forced to grapple with a financial crisis.

Jeff Heimsath, KUT News

The University of Texas System should avoid separating research and teaching and should continue to fund "soft" research into cultural or opinion-based topics, according to a letter submitted to the Board of Regents today by three large UT student groups.

The presidents of UT's Senate of College Councils, UT Student Government, and UT's Graduate Student Assembly are wading into a controversial debate that has ratcheted up tensions between Governor Rick Perry and legions of UT supporters. At issue is how to lower costs and increase efficiency at public universities in Texas.

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A contentious calculation used by the state to measure academic performance at schools will be abandoned, Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott announced today. The Texas Projection Measure (TPM) counted some students as passing, even if they failed, as long as they were algorithmically predicted to pass in the future. TPM had long drawn the ire of conservative business leaders, minority education activists and progressive policy groups.

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Two more elementary schools will offer dual language programs in the Austin Independent School District this fall. Sunset Valley Elementary and Travis Heights Elementary will join Becker, Ridgetop, Perez and Wooten elementary schools. The program will be offered to Pre-K and first grade students only, and will expand as students age.

With Central Texas superintendents shedding portions of their salaries to share the pain of public school cuts, we thought it would be interesting to compare their base salaries. We then broke it down on a dollar per student basis.  Continue reading for an interactive graph.

Photo of RRISD website by KUT News

Facing a projected budget deficit of $61 million, the Round Rock Independent School District has explained how it plans to eliminate $40.7 million of that shortfall. A prioritized list of 64 specific cuts would reduce the deficit to about $20 million. That remaining gap would be covered by RRISD's fund balance, a savings account that holds about $200 million.

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Some investors believe that buying gold is a good hedge against inflation.  If that's the case, then the University of Texas Investment Management Company (UTIMCO) may be protected for some time.

Photo by Torrie Hardcastle for KUT News

More than 100 students at Campbell Elementary received free eye exams today, and around 45 received new glasses, as part of a pilot program in Austin.

The project, called Kids Vision for Life, is a collaboration between local and statewide entities organized by the Austin Community Foundation, and seeks to provide children with free eye exams and glasses. The designer glasses were all donated by a company in Italy to the Essilor Vision Foundation, which is donating the lenses and eye exams.

Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

The nine elected men and women who govern the Austin school district will meet for a work session tonight aimed at tackling some of the options on the table for closing a projected budget gap of $94 million. One of those options would see advertising sold on the sides of school buses.

The proposal being investigated by AISD Chief Operating Officer Lawrence Fryer would split advertising revenue equally with the district and the vendor. AISD would retain full control over the content and type of advertising.

Photo by Nathan Bernier

Austin Independent School District Superintendent Meria Carstarphen sat down with KUT for a rare one-on-one interview this month covering a broad range of topics facing the school district as it grapples with a projected $94 million deficit. One statement Dr. Carstarphen made about Pease Elementary School caught the attention of eagle-eyed journalists at PolitiFact Texas.