public education

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

Should Texas Kids Spend More Time in School?

State lawmakers want to know if having kids spend more time in school will increase performance.

The Texas Senate Committee on Education is meeting this morning to talk about the impact of extended learning time on school success. That could mean longer school days or adding more days to the school year.

Lawmakers will also look at after-school programs and their effect on school performance, attendance and behavior.

The public is invited to comment at the hearing. It starts at 9 a.m. at the capitol.

Hundreds of Austin-Area Doctors Support Medical School

Proposition 1, the proposal for a new medical school and teaching hospital in Austin, now has the support of over 400 Austin-area doctors. The doctors' support means they are behind the five cent increase in property taxes per $100 of taxable value if Prop. 1 is successful in November.

Daniel Reese for KUT News

The Texas Senate Committee on Education today talked about possible funding options to promote school choice.

Lawmakers want to know if having more school options will create competition and, in turn, make all schools in the state better. One option to encourage school choice is a so-called taxpayer savings grant program. The idea was proposed in the Texas Legislature last year as part of House Bill 33. It would pay up to 60 percent of the amount that the state spends per pupil each year on school maintenance and operations for private school tuition – that’d be about $5,200.

Joe Bast is the President and CEO of the Heartland Institute – a non-profit research center based in Chicago. He looked at the numbers and believes many Texas families would take advantage of the option and that it would save taxpayers a big chuck of money right away.

Officer William Pieper courtesy of UTPD Facebook page

UT Students and Families Victims of Scam

The University of Texas at Austin is warning students and their families about a kidnapping scam.

Relatives of at least four students have received phone calls in the past six weeks claiming their child or grandchild had been kidnapped or is in need of medical care. The caller then asks for money.

UT Police say the perpetrator has an accent and demands that funds be placed into a foreign bank account.  

UT police is investigating the scam along with the FBI and the Joint Terrorism Task Force.

Photo by Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

We’re all familiar with school bake sales – those PTA-organized sugar-fests focused on raising money for band uniforms and financing field trips.

But Save Texas Schools, a group pushing for greater state investment in public education, hosted a bake sale this afternoon with a slightly loftier goal: raising, say, over five billion dollars selling cupcakes.

The tongue-in-cheek event, held in the shadow of the State Capitol, had a serous purpose: drawing attention to state budget cuts to education.

Photo courtesy www.flickr.com/jesabele

A judge has been named to hear several lawsuits brought by school districts against the State of Texas, to protest the way public education is funded.

Judge John Dietz, of the 250th Judicial District Civil Court in Travis County, will preside over the suits. The news was trumpeted by the Equity Center, a coalition of several poorer school districts. An Equity Center offshoot, the Texas Taxpayer and Student Fairness Coalition sued the state last year alleging Texas’ system of school funding was unconstitutional. As the coalition wrote in a complaint, “Taxpayers in low wealth districts who are willing to tax themselves at the highest rates allowed are unable to access the same dollars for education as taxpayers in high wealth districts who tax themselves at a lower rate.”

Photo via Flickr user pink_fish13

The effects of massive state budget cuts are beginning show up in public schools. Lawmakers cut about $4-billion from the state's K-12 budget in the just finished regular and special legislative sessions. That could mean fewer teachers and larger classes for some.

 The Associated Press reports the cuts will also mean old textbooks for students in the fall. 

Photo by Hannah Jones for KUT News

Dozens of teachers, parents, students and public education advocates protested underneath the Capitol Dome today, urging state lawmakers to spend more of the Rainy Day Fund to reduce cuts to school districts.

“We have got to keep making noise, because it’s raining and that’s an ugly bill,” Louis Malfaro with the Texas chapter of the American Federation of Teachers told the crowd. “So we say, ‘Fund our schools or don’t come back!’”

Protestors repeated the chant and it echoed throughout the cavernous rotunda.

Photo by Technolibrary2010 http://www.flickr.com/photos/52512222@N02/

Funding for K-12 education in Texas remains in limbo as lawmakers try to hash out a funding solution during the special legislative session that began on Tuesday.  The uncertainty has prompted teachers and parents to hold another rally this weekend at the State Capitol.  Here's the press release we received this afternoon.

Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

The Texas Senate Finance Committee has approved a budget that spends down an additional $3 billion from the state's Rainy Day fund, according to our political reporting partner the Texas Tribune.  The 11-4 vote came faster than expected this morning, and it sets up a showdown between House and Senate lawmakers.

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