Kate McGee, KUT News | KERA News

Kate McGee, KUT News

Kate is the education reporter at KUT, covering the Austin Independent School District, public, and higher education in Texas. She got her public radio start at Fordham University's WFUV. Her voice has been heard on the East and West coasts as a reporter and producer for WNYC and KUNR in Reno, Nevada. She has also appeared on NPR's Morning Edition,  All Things Considered, The Takeaway  and more. In her spare time, Kate enjoys discovering new music, traveling and trying local beers. 

Brian Butcher, a history teacher at Ballou High School, sat in the bleachers of the school's brand-new football field last June watching 164 seniors receive diplomas. It was a clear, warm night and he was surrounded by screaming family and friends snapping photos and cheering.

The Texas Senate Education Committee plans to discuss a bill next week that would allow parents to use taxpayer dollars to send their kids to private schools. The school voucher program is cited as a way to give students — especially low-income students — access to high-quality schools.

The empty lot at the corner of Red River and Seventh streets turned into a village of services for people experiencing homelessness Saturday. Around 350 people living on the streets were able to get everything from a shower to yoga lessons at the Pop-Up Care Village. 

The State Board of Education starts to review a months-long process this week to simplify its science curriculum standards, including recommendations to remove some controversial requirements to teach alternate theories to evolution, including creationism.

This legislative session, Texas lawmakers have some tough discussions ahead of them about how Texas funds its public schools, but some are asking how lawmakers can have those conversations without an updated look at how much it actually costs to educate kids.  

More than 100 of parents and teachers from across the state came to Austin Thursday night to share their struggles getting services for their special needs children. It was the last stop in the U.S. Department of Education’s statewide special education services listening tour, sparked by a Houston Chronicle report that the state was excluding students eligible for special education services on purpose—capping the services for 8.5 percent of students. 

Gov. Greg Abbott and members of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus dedicated a monument at the Capitol Saturday morning honoring the contributions of African-Americans.

The monument on the Capitol's south lawn highlights the African-American experience in Texas from the 1500s to slavery and emancipation to more modern achievements in the arts and sciences.

After months of protests from historians, teachers and lawmakers, the Texas State Board of Education this morning unanimously rejected a controversial Mexican-American studies textbook that would have been used in public schools.

State education leaders want 60 percent of Texans 25 to 34 years old to have some kind of post-secondary certificate or degree by the year 2030. But to get there, students need to be ready to take college-level classes, and it can take leaders time to agree just who qualifies as prepared.


Ever since Alberto Perez was a kid growing up in Dove Springs, he knew he wanted to go to UT Austin.

“I remember telling my mom, pointing at the tower, saying, 'that’s where I’m going to go to school,'" Perez remembers.


When Gene and Shirene McIntyre met with an attendance officer in the El Paso Independent School District in November 2006, their nine grandchildren had already been homeschooled for more than a year. But they were concerned the kids weren’t getting a proper education.

According to court documents, the children were always playing instruments and singing — nothing like traditional school. The children's uncle testified that one child said they did not have to do schoolwork because their parents, Laura and Michael, told them they were “going to be raptured.” 


This year, Texas public schools won’t measure instructional time by days, but they’ll do it by minutes. In the past, Texas public schools years were required to be provide 180 days of instruction. Now, a school year must provide a minimum of 75,600 minutes.


The future of monuments to Civil War figures on the University of Texas at Austin campus was discussed at a public forum today. The University held the first of two forums to collect community feedback about the placement of a statue of Jefferson Davis on the main mall of campus.

In June, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley declared that the state would remove the Confederate flag from its Capitol building, in the wake of a racially motivated shooting spree in a Charleston church that killed nine. South Carolina's state senators voted officially today to remove the flag, but elsewhere in the U.S., the debate about Confederate symbols, hate and history continues.

Students, staff, professors, alumni and Austinites stood on the auditorium stage of the Student Activity Center this afternoon and voiced their thoughts on the Davis statue — its history, and what it represents and symbolizes to students. 

This week, NPR Ed is digging into the story behind high school graduation rates across the country. NPR partnered with 14 public radio stations nationwide, including KUT.

At 88 percent, Texas has one of the highest graduation rates in the country, and the Austin Independent School District’s graduation rate has increased 12 percentage points since 2008, compared to the all-time high rate of 81 percent nationally. 

But what's the story behind those rates? Take a look at NPR Ed's interactive below to dig into the numbers.

A little more than 10 years ago, Texas banned soda machines and deep fryers in public school cafeterias.

Now the state's current agriculture commissioner, Sid Miller, wants to do away with that ban. He believes these kinds of restrictions should be in the hands of local school boards — not state regulators. But some students are among those who aren't happy about this idea.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Saturday marks the one-year anniversary of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

The shooting left 20 students and six adults dead. It also caused school districts and lawmakers across the country to re-examine security protocols in schools – including Texas. 

“When you talk about Sandy Hook Elementary and what happened that day – I think that a lot of people believe that it created or caused a reaction by law enforcement, first responders – that somehow changed from what we had been doing," says Austin School District Police Chief Eric Mendez.

The UT Board of Regents is expected to discuss the employment of University of Texas at Austin President Bill Powers during its executive session today. It’s the first time his employment has been placed on the agenda for discussion – and the latest development in what’s become a power struggle among state leadership.

The scene: boardrooms, committee chambers or behind closed doors. The characters: men who hold power in the Texas capitol, or the UT Tower. But how did the situation get to this point?

Following a national trend digitizing high school equivalency tests, Texas will only offer the GED test online come January. The State Board of Education approved some final changes to the new testing process Thursday as the state prepares for the transition.

The test will be entirely online, which means students need to be more computer literate.