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.

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.

US Navy

On a conference call Tuesday evening, the University of Texas System Board of Regents unanimously named Admiral William H. McRaven the sole finalist to be the next chancellor of the system.

McRaven, a Navy Seal and current commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, is perhaps best known for designing and coordinating the successful operation to kill Osama bin Laden.

Marjorie Kamys Cotera, Texas Tribune

University of Texas System regents plan to meet today and they could name a finalist in their search for a new University of Texas System chancellor. That's after UT's current chancellor announced in February that he would step down. But just what does a chancellor do?

The two candidates being considered for the University of Texas System are Richard Fisher – the president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas – and Admiral William H. McRaven, a 36-year Navy Seal who led the task force that killed Osama bin Laden in 2011.

Bob Daemmrich/Texas Tribune

The University of Texas System Board of Regents has scheduled a meeting for Tuesday, when they are expected to name the sole finalist to be the system's next chancellor. Sources with knowledge of the search told the Tribune that Admiral William H. McRaven is likely to be chosen.

McRaven is a Navy Seal best known for coordinating the successful operation to kill Osama bin Laden. He is currently the commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command, which is headquartered in Florida. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin and a master’s degree from the Naval Postgraduate School.

Robert W. Hart

Over half of Texas children between the ages of three and four don't go to preschool, according to the annual Kids Count report released this week from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Texas schools offer free pre-K programs to 4-year-olds, but primarily only offer programs for 3-year-olds on a tuition basis. Those low numbers and access have drawn scrutiny from education advocates, lawmakers and even the candidates running for governor.

Despite the recent focus on preschool access for Texas children, efforts to expand access may to wait until after the upcoming legislative session.

Audrey McGlinchy/KUT

To Veronica Escobedo, it resembled a fancy hotel – not quite a college campus.

But the first-year radiology student said the stylish and comfortable furniture, much of it still wrapped in plastic, would encourage her to stay on Austin Community College’s new campus between classes.

“There are bigger areas to actually study with people,” Escobedo said. “Most of the time I found myself studying with people off campus. The design and architecture make it really feel like a home.”

Filipa Rodrigues/KUT

Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams wants an additional year to study a new state teacher evaluation system. The additional period would delay the official roll out for two years.

Commissioner Williams wrote a letter to federal education officials Wednesday, where he also requested the federal government extend a waiver from No Child Left Behind requirements.

In a statement, Williams said:

Mengwen Cao/KUT News

Construction continues on two Austin school district buildings that are set to open this academic school year. The two sites – a performing arts center in the Mueller development and Jaime D. Padron Elementary School near Rundberg Lane and U.S. Highway 183 – will meet the needs of Austin's expanding population.

The new performance arts center isn’t expected to be complete until November, with grand opening events in January of next year. But the shell of the 1,200-seat auditorium is already visible. The center will house everything from performance and rehearsal rooms, to a recording studio and a kiln for visual art.

Kate McGee, KUT News

Instead of going to a typical summer camp, this summer Chris Folwick and Jorge Sepulveda are crunching some numbers.

But Folwick and Sepulveda couldn't be happier. The two Akins High School students are a part of the STEMbridge program, which allows students to learn coding and develop useful computer science skills in a comprehensive four-week course.

This is the first summer the school has partnered with Austin nonprofit STEMed Labs to bring comprehensive, year-round computer science courses to the high school. It's put on with the help of a grant from the KDK Harmon Foundation.

Folwick and Sepulveda are playing Connect Four, but you won’t hear them playing with pieces. They’ve developed the game on the computer – by writing code.

For the past four weeks, the students have learned the basics of coding, but they say there were less computers than they thought there would be.

The 24-hour-news cycle is ingrained into most adults' lives. Global conflict, natural disasters and crime make their way into in our daily discussions with a sense of normalcy. But for the young and impressionable, the news can paint a rather grim portrait of the world. So how do you go about explaining disturbing world events to your children?

The Texas Standard's David Brown speaks with licensed family and children’s counselor Khris Ford, who gives us some insight on how children perceive the events in the news.

Marjorie Kamys Cotera, Texas Tribune

In what's become the never-ending story of state higher education news, the Texas House Transparency Committee continued to hash out details of the fractured relationship between the UT System Board of Regents and UT-Austin leadership Wednesday, as it investigates the actions of UT Regent Wallace Hall.

The committee is deciding if it should file impeachment proceedings against Hall, who some believe abused his powers as regent, but Wednesday's meeting also focused on last week's agreement for UT Austin President Bill Powers to resign at the end of the 2014-2015 school year.

In a two to one opinion, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld UT-Austin's affirmative action policies – the subject of Supreme Court case Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin. You can read the decision here.

In a 2008 case, white student Abigail Fisher was not admitted into the university. She sued, claiming UT had discriminated against her because of her race. The case made it all the way to the Supreme Court, but the high court remanded the case to the circuit court last year, finding that when the court originally heard the case it didn't apply proper scrutiny to UT's affirmative action policies ­– as it was supposed to under a 2003 affirmative action case.

Read more background on the case here: So What Exactly Happened with Fisher v. University of Texas?

Photo by Nathan Bernier, KUT News

Leaders in the Austin Independent School District want to know what kind of leader they should hire to run the 86,000 student school district and they're asking for the public's input. The district is holding a series of public input meetings this week starting Tuesday. The forums are part of the school board’s plan to have a more open search process. When the district hired former Superintendent Meria Carstarphen in 2009, she was unveiled as the sole finalist. The move upset some people in the community who thought the process lacked transparency. 

This time, the district will initially interview candidates in a closed search. After it identifies two to four finalists, it will introduce them to the public. Community groups, parents and stakeholders will then have a chance to provide feedback on the finalists. But before all that happens, the district wants to hear from the community about what kind of finalists they should be looking for in the first place so it can create a profile once it starts accepting applicants.

Bob Daemmrich / Marjorie Kamys Cotera

University of Texas System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa has asked University of Texas at Austin President Bill Powers to resign ahead of the Board of Regents’ July 10 meeting or be fired at it, multiple sources confirmed to The Texas Tribune on Friday. The sources said Powers informed Cigarroa in writing that he will not resign, but is willing to discuss a timeline for his exit. 

UT-Austin officials said they could not comment on any private conversations between Cigarroa and Powers. Neither Powers nor Cigarroa could immediately be reached for comment. 

KUT's Joy Diaz

It's the largest gift Huston-Tillotson has ever received.

On Thursday, the historic black university announced that Ada Anderson, a 92-year-old graduate, had donated $3 million to pay for the initial construction phase of the school's mental health clinic. It will be called the Sandra Joy Anderson Community Health and Wellness Center in honor of the donor's daughter.

Kate McGee, KUT News

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan was at Austin Community College Friday afternoon meeting with male high school and college students of color. It’s part of the White House’s 'My Brother’s Keeper' initiative to close the achievement gap between young men of color and their peers.

Sitting in a circle, about 15 young African American and Hispanic male students sat with the secretary telling him about their role models, their aspirations and the struggles they face at home and school. Some had disciplinary problems, many were raised by single parents. Others were bullied or said they needed mentors.

Alberto Garcia is an ACC student who’s also taking care of his sister’s son.  He says one of the big problems for minority students in low-income neighborhoods is a lack of employment networking opportunities.

Flickr user Michelllaurence

An hour before the Austin school district’s board meeting began last night, more than fifty labor advocates were crowded in the courtyard outside, chanting, with handmade signs. By the time doors opened, the crowd had doubled.

After nearly four hours of deliberation, the crowd got its wish and erupted in cheers. In a 5-4 split vote, the board voted to adopt federal prevailing wages for workers on upcoming construction projects at Austin schools.

Nathan Bernier/KUT

Austin ISD is the largest school district in the nation whose campuses have "No Place for Hate."  

The No Place for Hate campaign provides schools the opportunity to address bullying and prejudice. The Anti-Defamation League-sponsored campaign began in Austin in 2011 with only 23 schools in the district qualifying. In just three years, all of AISD’s 122 schools have acquired the status.

In order for a school to qualify, every student on campus must participate in three group activities addressing bias, prejudice and other topics that students deem worthy to the entire school.  Every person on campus must also sign a resolution of respect.

A bill that would have let millions of people refinance their student loans at a lower interest rate has failed in the Senate, after Republicans objected that it included a tax on the wealthy to pay for it. The measure would have allowed people with older loans to benefit from today's low interest rates.

The bill from Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., didn't get past a procedural vote, falling by a 56-38 vote. Called the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act, it was shot down days after President Obama urged Congress to help ease the burden of student debt.