Education

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.

Ryan Stanton, Flickr

The Texas State Board of Education usually makes headlines when it adopts new textbooks because of ideological debates about the content. The time is no exception. This week, the board heard testimony from people on the left and right who are concerned about information in proposed social studies textbooks. 

But just how are textbooks chosen in Texas, and who is involved? 

Martin do Nascimento/Texas Tribune

A conservative grassroots group formed by a San Antonio man with ties to a national anti-Muslim organization has made a late entry into debate over new social studies textbooks for Texas schools, which are set to gain final approval from the state Board of Education this week. 

Flickr user: Luis Garza S; https://flic.kr/p/eaJgo4

A certain NFL team in Washington, D.C. has come under fire for its name – but a new Texas university appears to have a name controversy of its own.

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, the eminent consolidation of UT Pan-American and UT Brownsville, is in need of a mascot. But the front-runner –“vaqueros”, the Spanish word for “cowboys” – has proven so divisive that there’s an online petition demanding the resignation of the school’s new president.

Mengwen Cao/KUT News

Public schools in Austin get federal and state money based on students’ attendance and socioeconomic makeup. 

How schools supplement that funding often depends on the private resources available from foundations, non-profits or parents.

While many schools in Austin have robust Parent Teacher Association operations, others, mostly with high percentages of low-income students (so-called Title I schools), struggle to fundraise within their parent base because of a lack of extra resources and time to write grants or work with businesses to bring in money.

Many times, those schools must look to private foundations and non-profits to provide extra programs for students and families. 
 

Photo by Nathan Bernier/KUT News

Three of the five races are headed to a run-off on Dec. 16.

Here are the final numbers:

District One: 

  • Ted Gordon 34.56%  (Run-Off)
  • David 'D' Thompson 28.45% (Run-Off)
  • P. Kevin Bryant 18.73%
  • Stanton Strickland 18.25%

District Four: 

  • Julie Cowan 77.41% (Winner)
  • Karen Zern Flanagan 22.59%
Photo by Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

For the second time in more than forty years, Austin Community College is asking voters to approve a bond package that it says will allow the college to expand its offerings to students in Central Texas.

The $386 million bond proposition would allow ACC to renovate current buildings, build new campuses and expand programming.

Proposition 1: $224 million to retrofit the new campus at Highland Mall, build a campus in Leander (where student enrollment is at capacity) and buy land in southeast Travis County for future campuses.

KUT News

Five of the nine Austin School Board seats are up for grabs this Election Day. Current trustees in four of those five races decided not to run, which means there will be a lot of new faces on the school board.

The turnover comes as the school district is looking for a new superintendent. The new school board will have some major decisions to make in the next few years regarding the district’s budget, overcrowded and under-enrolled schools and declining enrollment district-wide.

Plus, for people who live within the district, most of an individual’s property tax bill goes toward AISD, not the city of Austin, Austin Community College or Travis County. So even if you don’ t have children in the district, or at all, the Austin School Board can still affect your wallet if it decides to raise property taxes.

Here’s a break down of who is running in each race:

Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT

Early voting continues this week in races ranging from governor to Texas Supreme Court Justice to Austin City Council to school board, a race that some say has been drowned out by some of the big ticket items on the crowded Election Day ballot.

A small patch of grass near a bus stop on Oltorf Street, near Lamar Boulevard, is surrounded by campaign signs –Adler for Mayor, Chris Riley for Council District 9, Dan Buda for District 5, Fred McGhee for District 3 – but one would be hard-pressed to find a school board candidate’s sign.

Photo by KUT News

Early voting is underway and while state and city races make up most of the very long ballot, many people will see at least one Austin ISD School Board race at the bottom. There are five school board races this November. KUT's Nathan Bernier sat down with KUT's education reporter Kate McGee to talk about the candidates in each race. 

District One and At-Large District Nine:

Spencer Selvidge/KUT

Austin Community College wants to offer graduates with an associate’s degree in nursing a chance to earn a bachelor of science in nursing.
The proposal comes as more healthcare providers increasingly require nurses to have more advanced degrees and the state deals with a nursing shortage.

The program would let students with an associate’s degree take 10 extra courses to receive a bachelor’s in nursing. Studies show facilities that have more nurses with baccalaureate degrees often have better patient outcomes, and the Institute of Medicine is recommending 80 percent of bedside staff at hospitals have a bachelor’s in nursing by the year 2020.

Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT

The Austin Independent School District is taking steps to pick its next superintendent. Interim Superintendent Dr. Paul Cruz took over the job in April, when former Superintendent Meria Carstarphen left to lead the district in Atlanta.

The deadline for candidates to apply was yesterday, and the district looks to begin a vetting process that will culminate in a confirmation of the next superintendent before the legislature meets in January.

Courtesy of Del Valle ISD

You might have heard lot about several bond propositions on the ballot, specifically Austin's $1 billion bond to pay for rail and road projects, but voters in the Del Valle School District are also deciding on a $134 million bond proposition.

The proposition looks to fund improvements, including everything from a new concession stand at the district's football stadium to buses to a pair of new elementary schools. The proposed projects may cover a broad swath of operational needs, but the proposition ultimately looks to get ahead of the district's future growth in student population.

  

This month on "In Perspective," our roundtable participants discuss public memory in relation to grief, war, and memorials such as the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. Two of our guests represent that museum, which commemorates the September 11 attacks of 2001 and the World Trade Center bombing of 1993. Also joining us are two distinguished faculty from The University of Texas at Austin and by a call-in guest who is an assistant professor and filmmaker from Northwestern University.

Photo by Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

With Austin's transportation bond, Prop 1, and Texas' additional transportation bond, also called Prop 1, garnering all the contention and headlines ahead of Election Day, it's easy to forget about other, less flashy bond propositions.

Austin Community College's three bond and tax propositions may not be high-profile, but they're not cheap either. If approved, the community college's proposed bonds would bring in nearly $400 million to fund expansion and renovations and would give ACC the ability to raise the cap on its tax rate.

KUT News

The UT Law School has received a $1 million gift to support its Pro Bono program, which provides students with first hand experience while also helping people who can’t afford a lawyer.

The money was donated by Richard and Ginni Mithoff of Houston. The program will now be named after them.

“Every student who comes to the University of Texas is helped in being here by the taxpayer," says Ward Farnsworth, Dean of the Law School. "We’re a public law school and we think that creates obligations. So when a student comes out of UT they’re not going out to lead a great career, but they’re also dedicated to finding ways they can give back.” 

Farnsworth says the school encourages each student to sign a pledge to provide 50 hours of free legal work during their time in law school.

KUT News

Austin School Board candidates in North Austin met last night in the first of three forums held by the League of Women Voters.  There are two candidates running in District Four, which includes Austin’s Northwest Hills neighborhoods and four candidates running in District One.

While the candidates all had different ideas, candidates all agreed on one thing: The public doesn’t trust the school district, which is one of the reasons, they say, the district is seeing declining enrollment, especially in East Austin schools.

Nathan Bernier/KUT News

The number of student discipline cases filed in Texas juvenile courts dropped 83 percent in one year, according to the state's Office of Court Administration. Officials say the drop is related to two bills passed by Texas lawmakers last legislative session, SB 393 and SB 1114, which allowed students' behavioral issues to be handled internally, rather than ticketing students and adjudicating behavior in courts.

“We were expecting a drop,” said David Slayton, director of the Office of Court Administration at a joint Public Education and Juvenile Justice hearing at the Texas Capitol Wednesday. “I don’t think we were expecting that significant of a drop in the first year. It’s quite astonishing.”

Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT

Austin ISD Interim Superintendent Paul Cruz highlighted the positive during the annual State of the District address on Monday, but he didn’t ignore the district’s problems. 

Cruz called for community involvement from non-profits and foundations to the city of Austin to address challenges.

KUT News

In 2013, the number of sexual assaults reported on or near UT Austin’s campus increased only slightly—three more cases were reported than the year before. That’s according to preliminary numbers from UT’s Annual Security Report, which was released this week. 

It's important to note that the numbers aren't likely to be an accurate representation of the number of actual assaults, since sexual assault is an historically underreported crime.

Last year's increase in sexual assault reports might not seem like a big one, but sources say next year’s report will be different.

UT couldn’t provide numbers for 2014, so far. But anecdotally, they say the university has seen an uptick in reports since January. 

flickr.com/jasonahowie

The number of reported sexual assaults at UT Austin last year saw a slight increase from the previous year.

In a report, school officials say the crime remains underreported given the size of the student population on campus, but also expressed concern about the increase in stalking incidents on campus.

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