Education

Panel recommends every Austin school campus have a registered nurse

Panel recommends every Austin school campus have a registered nurse

The Austin school district should place a licensed medical professional on every campus, according to new recommendations by a subcommittee tasked with examining school health services. The group, composed of health care experts, district staff and parents, pointed to various local and other urban Texas school districts that offer school nurses at each of their schools, and said Austin should fund...
Texas cancels no-bid contract for special education analysis

Texas cancels no-bid contract for special education analysis

The Texas Education Agency has canceled its contract with a technology company charged with analyzing special education programs. The TEA had contracted with SPEDx, a Georgia-based company, to look for trends and patterns in special education records. But the $4.4 million project incurred the ire of advocacy groups and parents, who said they worried about privacy and the fact that it was a no-bid...
Dripping Springs High School engineering team competes in Abu Dhabi

Dripping Springs High School engineering team competes in Abu Dhabi

A team of engineering students from Dripping Springs High School spent a week in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates competing in the Land Rover 4x4 World Championships. The students placed 12th in a field of 23 teams from 18 countries after ranking as high as third during the multiday competition. The event involved each team designing and building a radio-controlled four-wheel drive vehicle to...
Students in 47 counties will get STAAR reprieve because of Harvey

Students in 47 counties will get STAAR reprieve because of Harvey

Public school students in 47 counties affected by Hurricane Harvey won’t be held back a grade if they fail state standardized tests this school year. Typically, students in the fifth and eighth grades must pass the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness to move on to the next grade. Mike Morath, head of the Texas Education Agency, told school districts on Thursday that students in...
Eanes school district pulls out of special education analysis project

Eanes school district pulls out of special education analysis project

As special education advocates continue to spar with state leaders over a $4.4 million, no-bid contract to data mine student records, one school district has decided to walk away from the project — at least for now. Eanes Independent School District told the Texas Education Agency Wednesday that it wants time to re-evaluate its part in the project, which has generated controversy over privacy...
Abbott: Testing requirements should be dropped for Harvey-hit schools

Abbott: Testing requirements should be dropped for Harvey-hit schools

Gov. Greg Abbott is putting pressure on the Texas Education Agency to give students in school districts affected by Hurricane Harvey a reprieve from state testing requirements. Students in the fifth and eighth grade must pass the math and reading State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness to move on to the next grade. In a letter on Monday, Abbott asked TEA Commissioner Mike Morath to waive...
Abbott urges TEA to give Harvey-hit schools a reprieve from STAAR

Abbott urges TEA to give Harvey-hit schools a reprieve from STAAR

Gov. Greg Abbott is putting pressure on the Texas Education Agency to give students in school districts affected by Hurricane Harvey a reprieve from state testing requirements. Students in the fifth and eighth grade must pass the math and reading State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness to move on to the next grade. In a letter on Monday, Abbott asked TEA Commissioner Mike Morath to waive...
Texts raise questions about Texas special education director’s firing

Texts raise questions about Texas special education director’s firing

Newly released text messages are raising questions about why the Texas Education Agency fired its special education director after less than four months on the job. Laurie Kash was fired in late November, one week after a lawsuit accused her of trying to cover up the sexual abuse of a 6-year-old girl while working at a small school district in Oregon. The TEA said that Kash told them...
Reports: UT grad found dead in San Francisco Bay

Reports: UT grad found dead in San Francisco Bay

A recent University of Texas graduate who was working as a software engineer for Google was found dead Thursday in the San Francisco Bay, according to the San Jose-based Mercury News.  Chuchu Ma, 23, was identified Saturday as the person whose body was pulled from the bay near San Jose, the Mercury News reported.  The San Jose newspaper received a statement from Google about her death...
UT System competing against California-A&M alliance to run Los Alamos

UT System competing against California-A&M alliance to run Los Alamos

When the University of Texas System and its competitors — including a surprising alliance between the Texas A&M University System and the University of California — submit proposals to run the birthplace of the nation’s nuclear weapons program, they better make sure to use the correct typeface and to format and number the pages properly. After all, if you can’t get those things...
Ted Cruz does what Texas Legislature could not: expand ‘school choice’

Ted Cruz does what Texas Legislature could not: expand ‘school choice’

The U.S. Senate this month did what the conservative Texas Legislature couldn’t do earlier this year: pass legislation expanding what proponents call private school choice. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, tacked on to the Senate’s version of the tax overhaul bill a provision that would allow parents to use college savings accounts called 529 plans, which aren’t taxed, to pay for expenses...
Commentary: An apology, and a call for a second chance

Commentary: An apology, and a call for a second chance

For the better part of the past two years, I looked with skepticism at the whole Facility Master Plan process and what it meant for East and Northeast Austin, particularly in terms of equity for my district, District 1. Although I voted against the FMP for reasons related to my concerns about equity, I ultimately supported the $1 billion school bond proposition when it became painfully apparent that...
Viewpoints: Cruz must do more to fix trust damaged from closure plans

Viewpoints: Cruz must do more to fix trust damaged from closure plans

We welcome Austin Independent School District Superintendent Paul Cruz’s efforts to assuage concerns and fears that several East Austin schools will be closed or consolidated by next August based on timelines the district established without input from the people most affected by the potential closures. “I realize the excitement and eagerness to work coupled with aggressive project timelines...
CLOSURES: Weather worries cancel classes, delay business starts across Central Texas

CLOSURES: Weather worries cancel classes, delay business starts across Central Texas

Several Austin-area school districts — including the Austin Independent School District — decided to cancel Friday classes once snow began to fall in the area. Friday school closures have been announced for the Austin, Hays, Eanes, Manor, Del Valle, Bastrop, Lockhart and Elgin school districts. Other local districts, including Round Rock and Lake Travis, have opted not to delay...
Texas retired teachers leaving state health program in droves

Texas retired teachers leaving state health program in droves

About 7,800 retired Texas teachers are abandoning the health insurance program the state has created for them — long one of the top benefits for Texas public school teachers — a troubling development for a health care system that faces a $700 million funding shortfall. The abnormally large wave of requests to leave the health insurance program, which is housed under the Teacher Retirement...
AISD superintendent issues apology, rethinks school closure timelines

AISD superintendent issues apology, rethinks school closure timelines

After days of public criticism prompted by the Austin district’s plans to close and consolidate a handful of East Austin schools, Superintendent Paul Cruz on Thursday issued an apology, promising to change timelines and involve parents and community members in the process. “I realize the excitement and eagerness to get to work, coupled with aggressive project timelines, have created misunderstandings...
Charles Miller, iconoclastic former chairman of UT regents, dies at 83

Charles Miller, iconoclastic former chairman of UT regents, dies at 83

Charles Miller, a former chairman of the University of Texas System Board of Regents and one of the architects of the state’s accountability system that uses test scores to evaluate public schools, died Wednesday in Houston. Miller, 83, had fought cancer for five years, according to a family spokeswoman. The type of cancer was not disclosed. With his frizzy hair, rapid-fire speaking style, intellectual...
AISD Superintendent issues apology, rethinks school closure timelines

AISD Superintendent issues apology, rethinks school closure timelines

After days of public criticism prompted by district plans to close and consolidate a handful of East Austin schools, Superintendent Paul Cruz on Thursday issued an apology, promising to change timelines and involve parents and community members in the process. “I realize the excitement and eagerness to get to work, coupled with aggressive project timelines, have created misunderstandings about...
AISD backs away from plans to consolidate six schools in 2018

AISD backs away from plans to consolidate six schools in 2018

After pushback from community leaders and parents, Austin district administrators are moving away from plans that would have shuttered or consolidated up to six schools by next August — but at least one campus building will still be closed. Brooke Elementary, however, will not close and those students will not be sent to three other schools in the 2018-19 school year, Edmund Oropez, the district&rsquo...
UT graduate students protest low wages, possible tax on waived tuition

UT graduate students protest low wages, possible tax on waived tuition

University of Texas graduate students are protesting wages they consider too low as well as a measure passed by the U.S. House that would require them to pay taxes on tuition charges waived by the university. About 200 staged a walkout at noon Wednesday to rally on UT’s Main Mall in a cold rain, chanting, “Grad students will not stay overworked and underpaid,” and brandishing...
Groups call for pause on student special education data project

Groups call for pause on student special education data project

Two statewide groups are calling on the Texas Education Agency to temporarily suspend a $4.4 million, no-bid contract with a company hired to do data mining of confidential special education records, saying the project needs further scrutiny in light of recent complaints. Disability Rights Texas — a federally created group that advocates for people with disabilities — and the Texas Council...
Commentary: Why Austin’s new Central Library is a vision for the future

Commentary: Why Austin’s new Central Library is a vision for the future

The Austin Public Library recently opened its spectacular facility with much fanfare to respond to a diversity of needs in the Austin community. Transformed from a traditional library filled with books and other sources of information including media, the new open design sets itself apart as a new standard to address user needs in the 21st century. The timing of the opening of the new Austin Pubic...
LIVE COVERAGE: About 200 UT graduate students protest low wages, looming tax hike

LIVE COVERAGE: About 200 UT graduate students protest low wages, looming tax hike

Graduate students at the University of Texas are protesting wages they consider too low as well as a measure passed by the U.S. House that would tax their tuition exemptions as income. About 200 staged a walkout at noon Wednesday to rally on UT’s Main Mall, chanting “Grad students will not stay overworked and underpaid” and brandishing signs with messages like “UT runs on grad...
AISD backs away from plans to shutter, consolidate six schools in 2018

AISD backs away from plans to shutter, consolidate six schools in 2018

After pushback from community leaders and parents, Austin district administrators are moving away from plans that would have shuttered and consolidated up to six schools by next August — but at least one campus will still be closed. Brooke Elementary will not close and those students will not be sent to three other schools in the 2018-19 school year, Edmund Oropez, the district’s chief...
AISD’s plan to close, consolidate schools strains public trust

AISD’s plan to close, consolidate schools strains public trust

AISD Superintendent, Paul Cruz during a press conference in 2016. (LAURA SKELDING / AMERICAN-STATESMAN ARCHIVES) The move by Austin Independent School District Superintendent Paul Cruz to close and consolidate several East Austin schools soon after voters approved a billion-dollar bond package is a betrayal of public trust. Clearly, Cruz’s decision unveiled last week is a departure...
UT seeking 2 percent increase in tuition in 2018, and again in 2019

UT seeking 2 percent increase in tuition in 2018, and again in 2019

The University of Texas has asked its governing board to raise tuition and fees by 2 percent next fall and another 2 percent in fall 2019, for a total increase of $210 per semester on top of the current charge of about $5,200 for undergraduate students from Texas. The increases are needed to keep up with inflation, to offer competitive pay for faculty and staff members, and to address deferred maintenance...

Teacher at center of Fulmore Middle School walkout won’t be back

A teacher whose comments caused dozens of Fulmore Middle School students to walk out of their classrooms as a protest last month will not be returning to the school, the school’s principal says. “A decision has been made regarding the teacher’s employment at Fulmore,” Principal Lisa Bush wrote in a letter to parents. “Our teacher will not be returning to our school. The...
AISD to shutter, consolidate 6 East Austin schools, starting in August

AISD to shutter, consolidate 6 East Austin schools, starting in August

Austin district administrators have put plans in motion to shutter a handful of East Austin elementary schools as early as next August and rebuild three of them. All six of the schools chosen for consolidation — Brooke, Norman, Sims, Metz, Sanchez and Zavala — have low enrollment, which qualifies them for closure under a district facilities plan. But plans adopted by the school board last...
Florence police look into reports children forced to crawl on track

Florence police look into reports children forced to crawl on track

Police are investigating reports that two substitute teachers at Florence Middle School caused children to injure their hands Thursday by forcing them to crawl on an asphalt track during a physical education class, said Florence Police Chief Adam Marsh. Charges have not been filed, he said. Marsh said he has seen blistering and bruising on the hands of four children who were in a sixth-grade class...
Teacher at center of Fulmore Middle School walkout not returning, principal says

Teacher at center of Fulmore Middle School walkout not returning, principal says

A teacher whose comments caused several dozens of Fulmore Middle School students to walk out of their classrooms as a protest last month will not be returning to the school, the school’s principal told parents Thursday. “A decision has been made regarding the teacher’s employment at Fulmore,” Principal Lisa Bush wrote in a letter to parents. “Our teacher will not...
AISD moves to shutter, consolidate two East Austin schools

AISD moves to shutter, consolidate two East Austin schools

Austin district administrators have started plans to consolidate two East Austin schools into a single campus. Under the plan, the district will build a new school and either Norman or Sims elementaries would close and consolidate into the other that would be rebuilt. A planning team whose charge is to develop a plan to consolidate the schools has until Jan. 16 to determine which school will close...
Texas lagging in higher education attainment, commissioner warns

Texas lagging in higher education attainment, commissioner warns

The chief executive of the state’s higher education agency summed up the challenge of educating a mostly poor, college-age population with 10 words Thursday: “We’re getting better, but we’re not getting better fast enough.” It is a theme that Higher Education Commissioner Raymund Paredes has sounded since he was named to the position in 2004, but it was delivered in his...
Study: Texas lags behind most states in school funding

Study: Texas lags behind most states in school funding

Since 2008, when the Great Recession led to major funding cuts to education across the country, Texas has lagged behind most states in restoring those dollars, according to a new study. Per-student state funding in Texas in 2015, the latest education spending data available from the U.S. Census Bureau, was 16 percent lower than in 2008, when adjusted for inflation, according to the Center on Budget...
AISD plans headquarters move to South Austin as soon as next summer

AISD plans headquarters move to South Austin as soon as next summer

The Austin school district could begin moving its administrators into a new headquarters as soon as next summer. The school board Monday night approved the $28.4 million purchase of the Southfield Building, near the northwest corner of Interstate 35 and Ben White Boulevard in South Austin, as the site for the headquarters. District officials said they hope the new location will offer better accessibility...
Austin district approves sales of district headquarters, Baker

Austin district approves sales of district headquarters, Baker

The Austin school board Monday night approved the high-profile sales of district headquarters, the Baker Center and the Millett Opera House (home of the Austin Club), among other surplus properties. The school board in an 8-0-1 vote, with Trustee Julie Cowan abstaining, directed staff to execute the sale of the Carruth Center on West 6th Street, which has been home to district headquarters for more...

Court records: Teacher accused of sexually abusing student since May

An English as a Second Language teacher at Dobie Middle School was arrested Nov. 17 and charged with sexually abusing a student since May, court documents show. Pedro Esteban Rosas Martinez, 30, is accused of placing his hand on the inner thigh of a 12-year-old student and touching her vagina, according to an arrest affidavit filed after Rosas Martinez’s arrest. A cellphone video the student...
Dobie Middle School teacher accused of sexually abusing student since May, court records show

Dobie Middle School teacher accused of sexually abusing student since May, court records show

5 p.m. update: An English as a Second Language teacher at Dobie Middle School was arrested on Nov. 17 and charged with continuously sexually abusing a student since May, court documents show. Pedro Esteban Rosas Martinez, 30, is accused of placing his hand on the inner thigh of a 12-year-old student and touching her vagina, according to an arrest affidavit filed after Rosas Martinez&rsquo...
Austin ISD eyes Southfield building for new district headquarters

Austin ISD eyes Southfield building for new district headquarters

Austin school leaders are eyeing the Southfield building, near the northwest corner of Interstate 35 and Ben White Boulevard in South Austin, as the potential site for a new district headquarters. Austin school board members tonight will vote on selling the district’s current headquarters, the Carruth Administration Building on West 6th Street, for $36.5 million to Schlosser Development of Austin...
Viewpoints: City should not overlook Austin ISD in CodeNext talks

Viewpoints: City should not overlook Austin ISD in CodeNext talks

“We need a seat at the table.” That is the message the Austin Independent School District is sending to the city of Austin with a proposed resolution regarding CodeNext that trustees are expected to approve Monday. A firm statement outlining the district’s position on CodeNext is needed because city officials thus far have overlooked – if not ignored — Austin ISD&rsquo...
Texas special education chief fired after questioning no-bid contract

Texas special education chief fired after questioning no-bid contract

The state’s new director of special education was fired Wednesday, one day after she filed a federal complaint claiming the Texas Education Agency wrongly entered into a $4.4 million, no-bid contract with a Georgia company to analyze private records for children with disabilities. Laurie Kash asked the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General on Tuesday to investigate...
Texas fires special education director, citing civil suit in Oregon

Texas fires special education director, citing civil suit in Oregon

The Texas Education Agency has fired its special education director. Laurie Kash, who started work in August, was recently accused in a lawsuit of trying to cover up child abuse allegations while she worked as a special education director at Rainier School District in Oregon. The $1.85 million suit claims that Kash ordered several employees to keep quiet about the child’s allegations. &ldquo...
Austin school district chooses buyers for high-profile properties

Austin school district chooses buyers for high-profile properties

Austin school leaders are moving forward with the sales of the district’s downtown headquarters, the Baker Center and the Millett Opera House (home of the Austin Club), among other surplus properties. The school board next Monday is scheduled to vote on the sales of these properties: • The Carruth Center, the 2.7-acre district headquarters on West Sixth Street, for $36.5 million to...
AISD moves to sell headquarters to developer, Baker Center to Alamo Drafthouse

AISD moves to sell headquarters to developer, Baker Center to Alamo Drafthouse

Austin school leaders are moving forward with the high-profile sales of district headquarters, the Baker Center and the Millett Opera House (home of the Austin Club), among other surplus properties. The school board on Nov. 27 is scheduled to vote on the sales of the following properties: • the Carruth Center, the 2.7 acre district headquarters on West 6th Street, for $36.5 million to Schlosser...
Campaign cash, outreach to parents fueled big Austin school bond win

Campaign cash, outreach to parents fueled big Austin school bond win

Even staunch supporters of the Austin school district’s $1.1 billion bond were surprised when it passed with 72 percent of the vote on Nov. 7. The single, all-or-nothing proposition was the largest ever approved by Austin residents, even as angst grows over ever-escalating property taxes. Those who lobbied for it stuck to the basics, with a data-driven phone campaign to boost turnout...
Mom, girls sought by police had fled foster care danger, dad says

Mom, girls sought by police had fled foster care danger, dad says

Fear for her daughters’ safety inside a South Austin foster home prompted Sarah Marcella Jordan of Cedar Park to violate a court order last Tuesday when she picked them up after school and drove them to Florida, triggering a multistate search that ended in her arrest, her husband said. Authorities found Jordan’s daughters safe in Florida on Thursday, but not before Central Texas law enforcement...
Teacher accused of telling student ‘go back to Mexico’ is put on leave

Teacher accused of telling student ‘go back to Mexico’ is put on leave

About 120 parents Friday morning packed the library at Fulmore Middle School, seeking answers days after a campus protest in which students accused a teacher of telling a student to “go back to Mexico.” At the meeting Friday, parents pushed for details on what actions the district had taken against the teacher, some calling for her to be fired or removed from the campus, according to those...
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