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.

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Austin School Trustees acknowledged they were left with no easy choices last night as they voted 9-0 to approve a plan that would eliminate 485 jobs next school year, mostly teachers. The decision was based on a plan to reduce the $113 million projected budget gap without cutting full day pre-K.

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January is School Board Recognition Month, and while board members received gift baskets and pictures drawn by children, the people who packed into last night’s school board meeting were in no mood to celebrate. During the public comment section of the board meeting, people responded to some of the most controversial budget reduction proposals – everything from laying off teachers and librarians to closing neighborhood schools.

But school closures were not on the menu last night. Board members were faced with a different set of unpleasant options. They involved changing staffing formulas to eliminate hundreds of teachers and dozens of librarians, among other employees.

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It's going to be a busy night at Austin Independent School District headquarters as board members confront some of the toughest decisions they have been asked to make in their careers as school district leaders.

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Staff at the Austin Independent School District received a chilling letter from Superintendent Meria Carstarphen yesterday. It warned that AISD would have to slash spending by $113 million if the Texas legislature adopts a budget proposed by House leaders. Dr. Carstarphen writes that "positions will be terminated."

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The man in charge of the House Education Committee in the Texas legislature is looking at ways to reduce spending as the state grapples with its massive budget gap. Rob Eissler says reducing the number of counselors, librarians, administrators to 2006 levels could save $3 billion in the next budget.

The story comes from KERA, our NPR sister station in Dallas. News director Shelley Kofler sent us this piece they ran this morning.

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Emotions ran high at the first of two public meetings last night intended to give people an opportunity to respond to school closure options developed by an Austin Independent School District task force

Image courtesy Austin Independent School District

The Austin Independent School District will take public input tomorrow and Thursday nights on a proposal that—as it's currently written—would close eight elementary schools and a middle school.

The schools on the block currently are Joslin, Pease, Brooke, Ortega, Oak Springs, Sanchez, Barton Springs and Zilker Elementary Schools and Pearce Middle School.

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A massive influx of young children to the Austin Independent School District will cause more than third of AISD elementary schools to be bursting at the seams by 2015-16 school year, according to a demographic projection and

Image courtesy Jonathan Pobre

The Texas Education Agency isn't the only organization bracing for cuts to education spending as lawmakers look to rein in a budget gap that could exceed $25 billion.  School districts are also girding for what they dread will be severe cuts to public education.

Round Rock ISD has enacted a hiring freeze, as we reported yesterday.  

Image courtesy Forty Two

The Round Rock Independent School District says it is implementing a hiring freeze in anticipation of budget cuts in the upcoming Texas legislative session.

In a release today, Round Rock ISD Superintendent Dr. Jesús. H. Chávez said the district is reducing spending by at least five percent - or about $17 million - in preparation for the cuts in state education.

University of Texas campus
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We're beginning to see the consequences of state budget cuts at Texas' public universities. The Chronicle of Higher Education's Katherine Mangan reports today how more than 130 tenured professors at the University of Texas and Texas A&M University have accepted buyouts.

While the early retirements are expected to save nearly $18 million annually, they also carry administrative consequences for their colleges, Mangan reports.

AISD headquarters
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The Austin Independent School District began accepting transfer requests today, and for the first time, AISD is using a lottery system to award transfers. The end of the longstanding first-come-first-served system means parents no longer have to camp overnight outside school district headquarters to improve their child's odds of having the transfer request granted.

"This will be just a much more family friendly process," AISD spokesperson Carmen Luevanos told KUT News.

Texas A&M University recently barred its employees from telling students to file open records requests under the state's public information act. Now, a group of fifteen journalism organizations is weighing in on the debate.

A letter from the groups, posted on the Poynter journalism blog, accuses the University of using a "potentially illegal" policy to "squelch investigations by its own students."

Gary Chapman
Image courtesy LBJ School of Public Affairs

The LBJ School of Public Affairs is reporting that senior lecturer Gary Chapman died of an apparent heart attack yesterday during a kayaking trip in Guatemala.

Sign at AISD headquarters
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We already knew the Austin Independent School District missed federal Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) standards this year, but the district held out hope it could appeal and improve its ranking.

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As state leaders look for places to trim spending underneath a looming budget shortage that could surpass $20 billion, the Texas Comptroller Susan Combs today unveiled a new online tool that she says will allow anyone to rate how well schools are using money.

KUT News intern Nick Robertson was returning from a protest marking the anniversary of the Bhopal gas tragedy when he noticed a group University of Texas undergrads doing this over and over and over on Guadalupe Street. 

Protest at University of Texas
Image by Nick Robertson for KUT News

A group of students, faculty, and staff walked out of their buildings and held a loud marching demonstration this morning on the University of Texas campus.  They were protesting existing and future budget cuts brought on largely as a result of the state's budget gap, a shortfall that could exceed $20 billion.

Joe Dan Lee
Image courtesy Georgetown ISD

Georgetown Independent School District has a new superintendent. GISD's Board of Trustees elected Joe Dan Lee to serve as the district's top administrator. Lee was already acting-superintendent since the departure of Abbe Boring in July.

Childhood obesity is one of those extremely complicated issues that is affected by many interrelated factors like family income, where you live, and your level of education.  An annual study that looks at obesity rates across America says Texas has the 7th highest rate of childhood obesity in the country. 

As we've reported in the past, the southeast Austin neighborhood of Dove Springs has one of the highest rates of childhood obesity in the city.