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.

Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT

Last night, the Austin Independent School District board approved a 2015 budget of over $1 billion, which includes pay increases for teachers and employees.

However, those increases are a one-time deal due to the so-called "recapture program" in the state's school finance laws, which will require a reallocation of $175 million in Travis County property taxes this year.

Filipa Rodrigues/KUT

Students attending the Gus Garcia Young Men's Leadership Academy in northeast Austin were taught how to tie their uniform ties today.

The school is one of two newly-reconstituted, single-gender schools in the district, along with the Bertha Sadler Means Young Women's Leadership Academy. Both schools rang in their inaugural academic years yesterday. KUT joined the students as they perfected the intricacies of the windsor knot, led by the school's Principal Sterlin McGruder and Austin Independent School District Interim Superintendent Paul Cruz. 

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

As the school year starts anew for Texas public schools, the Austin Independent School District is preparing for a year of changes.

In November, as many as five new school board members will be elected, a replacement superintendent will be hired in the wake of Meria Carstarphen’s departure and the district could face more, or less, funding after the legislature convenes in January.

The district’s interim superintendent Paul Cruz spoke with KUT about the difficulties facing Austin students, parents and educators as bells ring in the new academic year.

Courtesy of Southwestern University

Students of all ages are gearing up to head back to class this week.

With that in mind, KUT’s Jennifer Stayton spoke with Southwestern University President Dr. Edward Burger about his book “The Five Elements of Effective Thinking,” the role of failure in academia, the proliferation of online classes and technology in education and how students can “find their fire."

Nathan Bernier/KUT News

A decision in the latest school finance lawsuit is expected next week, but it could be years before school districts see any changes to the way education is paid for in Texas.

Right now, the school finance system is largely characterized by something called recapture, or  Robin Hood. If a school district collects more local property taxes than the state has determined it needs using a set of formulas, it has to give the difference back to the state. Then, the state puts that money in a big pot and uses it to fund other school districts, especially those that can’t raise enough local property taxes on their own.

Within the next couple weeks, an Austin judge is expected to rule whether the state’s school finance system is constitutional. Meanwhile, Austin Independent School District officials are worried about how much money the district will have to educate students next year—and five years down the road. 

The reasons for that go back to something called “recapture," a process that means some school districts don’t get to keep all the money they collect. And it's extremely complicated.

Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT

Eighteen candidates are running for the five open seats on the Austin School Board this fall, which is nearly double the average number of people who have run for the school board in every election since 2002.

But, compared to the 78 candidates who have filed to run for the city council and the mayoral races this fall, the Austin school board doesn’t seem like the most popular place to spend your free time.   

That’s because being an Austin School Board Trustee isn’t easy.

Mengwen Cao/KUT

A $50 million donation to the forthcoming Dell Medical Center at UT-Austin will establish the Livestrong Cancer Institutes.

The gift, which will be doled out over the next decade, has pushed the university over its fundraising goal to raise $3 billion over eight years and looks to provide a new model of care for cancer patients in Travis County and beyond.

Stuart Seeger via Texas Tribune

Recommendation letters written by elected officials and submitted directly to a university president have been a source of controversy at the University of Texas at Austin. And while Texas A&M University’s president has received similar letters, they have not set off similar alarms.

KUT News

Update: One candidate has filed to run for the AISD School Board in District One. David "D" Thompson filed with the district Wednesday. Scroll down for a full list of the filed candidates.

Original Story (10:01 a.m.): For students in Austin schools, deadlines for homework or class projects are usually accompanied with an appropriate level of last-minute scrambling.

But, for would-be candidates vying for open seats on the Austin Independent School District’s school board, Monday’s filing deadline isn’t inspiring the same level of frenzy typically associated with school-related deadlines.

Only seven potential candidates have thrown their hat into the ring since the elections opened up on July 18, but the late-filings aren’t anything new to the campaigns for Board of Trustee races.

Photo by KUT News

As the Austin Independent School District gears up to trim the fiscal fat this budget season, the district faces a tough financial future.

Enrollment is flat, and the school board is preparing to lose more than $1 billion to the state's school finance system over the next five years through "recapture," which shares revenue from districts with high property tax revenues with low-income school districts.

The board met last night to discuss the future for the district next year and in the future.

Marjorie Kamys Cotera, Texas Tribune

In a 6-1 vote on Monday, the House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations approved a motion to admonish and censure University of Texas System Regent Wallace Hall for “misconduct, incompetency in the performance of official duties, or behavior unbefitting a nominee for and holder of a state office.”

The focus of the committee's inquiry has been the regent’s behavior since being appointed to the board in 2001, in particular his lengthy personal investigations of the University of Texas at Austin administration and his subsequent handling of private student information.

Some of Hall’s findings, such as his allegations that the flagship university is subject to undue political influence in its admissions processes, have led to formal inquiries and policy changes.

Robert W. Hart

Today, parents can begin enrolling their 4-year-olds in pre-K classes in the Austin Independent School District, but today also marks the districts roll-out of a pilot program to enroll qualified 3-year-olds in half-day pre-K classes.

Nathan Bernier/KUT

90 percent of school districts in Texas met state standards, according to results released Friday by the Texas Education Agency.

Under a new rating system that began last year, schools are rated as Met Standard, Met Alternative Standard or Improvement Required.

“Texans should be pleased to see the vast majority of districts, charters, and campuses are meeting the standards set in the second year of the state accountability system,” Education Commissioner Michael Williams said in a statement. “While the 2014 numbers are positive, the work continues in districts across our state to meet and exceed increasing state standards and the expectations of their local communities.”

Todd Wiseman/Texas Tribune

In 2013, when Texas passed its first overhaul of charter school policy since 1995 — the year the publicly funded but privately operated schools were first established in the state — lawmakers included a provision intended to speed the shuttering of poor-performing schools.

But nearly 10 months after the Texas Education Agency marked six operators for closure under the new measure, three of those schools remain open. As those charters prepare to open their doors this month for a new school year, they say they are fighting a process that does not account for the full picture of a charter’s financial or academic health.  

Biscuit Brothers

In Central Texas, The Biscuit Brothers are practically a household name.  Their TV show, filmed here in Austin, has earned them two Emmys and is syndicated as far away as Florida and New York.

The show spawned nearly fifteen years ago, when Jerome Schoolar and Allen Robertson were asked to fill in on a farm-themed sing along, initially a one-time gig. But the personas of Dusty and Buford Biscuit stuck  – and expanded into a successful PBS kids show. 

Nathan Bernier/KUT

The largest school district in Central Texas has hit a record high graduation rate. But the Austin school district still lags behind the state average.

In the five years that former Austin ISD superintendent Meria Carstarphen oversaw the district before leaving for Atlanta, graduation rates rose by ten percent. In 2013, it hit a new high of just over 84 percent. And the increases in graduation rates were across all student groups in AISD, including Hispanics, African-Americans, economically disadvantaged and special education students. 

Marjorie Kamys Cotera, Texas Tribune

Federal officials along the border have scrambled in the last few months to house and care for tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors from Central America crossing the border into the United States.

Courtesy of Blackshear Elementary

This fall, Blackshear Elementary will become Austin Independent School District’s first fine arts elementary school. The school offers students a choice in their daily lesson plans, with one half of the day focusing on academics and the other half focusing on arts education.

Tonight, the district will host an open house for parents interested in enrolling their students at the traditionally under-enrolled school.

Technology – and particularly smartphones – could reshape safety efforts on college campuses. At least that's the hope of some developers.

Several new apps offer quick ways for college students facing unsafe or uncomfortable situations to reach out to their peers, connect with resources on campus and in their communities, or notify law enforcement.

These apps for the most part target sexual assault and rape, amid growing national concern about the prevalence of incidents and criticism of the ways colleges and universities are handling them.