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.

Todd Wiseman/Texas Tribune

This week, the Texas Senate Education committee started to tackle multiple bills that would create school voucher programs. The proposals are strongly supported by conservative lawmakers, especially Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick.

One bill filed by Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) would create a grant giving parents 60 percent of the annual cost for maintenance and operations per student, or about $5,200, through the proposed Taxpayer Savings Grant. Another bill would give 75 percent of that annual per-student funding to parents, or just over $6,500 though the so-called Education Tuition Grant.

Nathan Bernier/KUT

In a somewhat surprising move, the state House Public Education committee Chair announced Wednesday that the house will try to tackle the state’s school finance system this legislative session.

The school finance system, which a district court judge ruled is unconstitutional, is currently tangled up in the appeals process at the Texas Supreme Court. Many people familiar with education politics in Texas believed the legislature wouldn’t make any decisions before the court ruled. But at a press conference this morning, House Education Committee chair Jimmie Don Aycock said the state must act now.

Remember "Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey," that spoof of affirmations and pithy sayings?  They're funny for sure, but the idea of understanding something deeply is a serious part of education during school and beyond. In this week's episode of KUT's podcast Higher Ed, Jennifer Stayton and Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger discuss how to understand something deeply and how that impacts learning. Sound intimidating? Listen on - it's really not!

creative commons

Learning.... it's what we all go to school for, right? Well, have you ever thought about what we're actually doing when we learn? Sometimes, it's just memorizing names, dates, or facts that we can reproduce on a test. We might ace the test, but have we really learned anything?

In this week's episode of KUT's podcast Higher Ed, Jennifer Stayton and Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger discuss the important role "unlearning" plays in learning. What exactly is "unlearning?" Listen on to find out!

Ryan Loyd/TPR

For the 61 percent of economically disadvantaged students who attend Austin Public Schools, private school tuition might seem impossible for their families to afford. Sometimes public school is the only option for parents or guardians, and they are forced to keep their children in schools that are struggling academically.

Some Republican state lawmakers say that shouldn’t be the case.

“Not just the wealthy who can send their children to private school, and not just those who have the mobility to move to the suburbs," Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said at the beginning of the 2015 legislative session.  "But for parents in the inner cities where their children are trapped in failing schools, it is their right to have those same opportunities.”

History, Biology, English, Calculus. Those are some of the more traditional subjects taught in classrooms.

But what if happiness were taught in school?

In this week's episode of KUT's podcast Higher Ed, Jennifer Stayton and Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger discuss teaching happiness in school. What would that look like in a classroom? And if it could be taught, should it be taught?

Filipa Rodrigues/KUT News

Do boys and girls learn differently?

Some single-sex supporters say yes, but not everyone agrees — not even those who work at the two new single-sex middle schools on Austin’s east side. 

But teachers at these schools do say there are positives to splitting the sexes.  

It all started with a high school assembly on the first day back from winter break. The guest speaker was the founder of an Austin-based company with a positive message about following your dreams. But what was supposed to be a motivational speech turned into a war of words between high school students and staff and Kash Shaikh, the founder of #BeSomebody, that played out on blogs and social media.

Filipa Rodrigues/KUT News

This fall, Austin ISD opened its first all-boys school in Northeast Austin called Gus Garcia Young Men's Leadership Academy. It's paired with a sister school, Bertha Sadler Means Young Women's Leadership Academy.

The district turned the schools into single-sex campuses to improve them after years of academic failure at both campuses.

creative commons

"Takes one to know one."

Remember that phrase? It's usually tossed around as an insult during an argument. But, could there be a grain of truth in that? What does it mean to be an expert in something?

In this week's episode of KUT's podcast Higher Ed, Jennifer Stayton and Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger discuss what qualifies (and what doesn't) when it comes to being an expert in education. Just about all of us have been to school of some kind of at some point along the way. Does that mean we know what's best when it comes to education policy and curriculum? Listen on for a lively discussion.


Texas Senator Eddie Lucio (D-Brownsville) wants to allow school districts to put video cameras in special education classrooms in public schools and charter schools across the state.

The bill is similar to one that had bipartisan support during the 2013 legislature, which passed in the Senate but failed to make it out of committee in the House.

Lucio says he wants cameras in special education classrooms to prevent abuse of students, "especially those that are non-verbal, are afforded the same protections and safety in schools as other Texas children." 

creative commons

3-D printing seems like a great deal. Need something? Print it up. Anything from food to clothing to houses to guns can be printed and used. But just because we can print it, should we? And what about people who don't have access to the technology?

In this week's episode of KUT's podcast Higher Ed, Jennifer Stayton and Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger discuss the convergence of technology, economics, art, ethics, and morality in grappling with the issues raised by what 3-D printing can do. And what about the impact of 3-D printing on education and learning? Listen on!

Bob Daemmrich/Texas Tribune

From the Texas Tribune:

University of Texas at Austin President Bill Powers has helped secure college admittance for some students over the objections of the admissions office, according to an external review of lawmaker and regent influence at the flagship campus.

KUT News

An Austin school board discussion about equity between the district’s campuses grew tense this week when the conversation between two school board members turned to diversity at the district’s nationally recognized high school, Liberal Arts and Science Academy. LASA is a magnet program located on the upper floors of LBJ High School, which mostly educates minority students.

creative commons

Think back to your early days of school - nursery school and kindergarten, even into first grade. Learning was full of fun and creative discovery. But as time goes by, that fun disappears from the scene, and so can our love of learning.

In this Valentine's episode of KUT's podcast Higher Ed, Jennifer Stayton and Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger discuss how we've lost that lovin' feeling in learning, and how we can get it back. Listen on to hear whether they harmonize about what a love of learning can bring to our lives.

UT Parking Strategies Committee Report

Parking around the UT campus when classes are in session is never easy, but it's also going to get more expensive soon. Parking rates are set to go up on the UT Austin campus, and it's an increase that will continue for several years. Outgoing President Bill Powers asked a committee of faculty and administrators to look into how to get more money for the university out of parking, and not surprisingly, the answer was higher fees.

The increases vary based on which permit you get, but it is an increase across the board. Let's say you have an "F Garage" permit, which currently costs $420 a year. Five years from now, that same permit will cost $588.  A "C" permit, for students parking in surface level lots, which is currently $120, will go up roughly $6 a year over the next five years, up to $150.

Bob Daemmrich/Texas Tribune

From the Texas Tribune:

Allowing undocumented students to pay in-state tuition is the “morally right thing to do,” University of Texas System Chancellor William McRaven said Thursday.

“My job is to help educate the young men and women of Texas,” McRaven said in an interview with Texas Tribune CEO and Editor in Chief Evan Smith. “If we have been doing that for these undocumented students for, at a minimum, the past three years as they’ve made it through high school, and in many cases since they were in elementary school, I think it’s appropriate to continue to educate them.”

Jennifer Whitney/Texas Tribune

Two members of the Texas House have filed a bipartisan bill that would help school districts fund full day pre-kindergarten programs as long as they fulfill a variety of requirements – and can wait until third grade to assess if the pre-kindergarten program helped students learn. 

Right now, the state funds half-day pre-K programs for students who qualify, who are usually low-income, English Language Learner or special education students.

Under this new bill, written by Representatives Eric Johnson (D-Dallas) and Marsha Furney (R-Georgetown), public school districts could either continue to offer a half-day program or choose to operate a full-day program.

Photos: Filipa Rodrigues, KUT Design: Andrew Weber, KUT

Principal Sterlin McGruder thinks it's his responsibility to teach more than reading and math to his middle school students at Gus Garcia Young Men’s Leadership Academy. Throughout the first year at the all-boys school in Northeast Austin, McGruder has tried to instill a sense of respect in his students: respect for others and respect for themselves.

creative commons

You may have been running into this problem, too - all the stores I've tried in Central Texas are out of 175th birthday cards! First, the City of Austin celebrated its 175th birthday in December 2014.  Now, Southwestern University in Georgetown is celebrating its 175th anniversary.

In the latest episode of KUT's podcast "Higher Ed," KUT's Jennifer Stayton and Southwestern's President Dr. Ed Burger explore the history of Southwestern University on its demisemiseptcentennial. Or as some call it, the quartoseptcentennial. It's also known as the septaquintaquinquecentennial. Do Ed and Jennifer even try to say those words?! Listen on to find out.