Rhonda Fanning | KERA News

Rhonda Fanning

Rhonda is the newest member of the KUT News team, joining in late 2013 as producer for KUT's new daily news program, The Texas Standard. Rhonda will forever be known as the answer to the trivia question, “Who was the first full-time hire for The Texas Standard?”  She’s an Iowa native who got her start in public radio at WFSU in Tallahassee, while getting her Master's Degree in Library Science at Florida State University. Prior to joining KUT and The Texas Standard, Rhonda was a producer for Wisconsin Public Radio. 

From Texas Standard:

Citizens and journalists requesting Texas public records won’t have a lot of luck getting government contract information right now. Requests for information on nonprofits getting state funding also will come up short.

From Texas Standard

Federal law doesn't allow states to drug test food stamp recipients, but there is no such law for another program that gives federal grant funds to states to provide families with financial assistance and other support services. Nine states currently require either screening or drug testing for adults seeking to receive the federally funded Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Now Texas wants to join them.

From Texas Standard:

State lawmakers filed resolutions on Tuesday calling for a convention of states to propose amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

From Texas Standard:

President-elect Donald Trump has called for “extreme vetting” – his preferred wording for a policy that would essentially close U.S. borders to refugees from predominantly Muslim countries. Texas has rebranded its “bathroom bill” as the “Women’s Privacy Act” – a proposal to deny people who are transgender from using public bathrooms that fit with their gender identity. The white nationalist movement calls itself the “alt-right.” Abortion advocates say they are part of the “pro-choice” movement and anti-abortion advocates call themselves “pro-lifers.”

From Texas Standard:

We're just one day away from putting the 2016 election in the record books – so we thought we'd take a few minutes to highlight the top five Texas moments that shaped the election.

Kevin Diaz, Washington correspondent for the Houston Chronicle, says many of these top five Texas-related moments involve the state's junior senator and one-time presidential candidate, Ted Cruz.

 


From Texas Standard:

It’s the final full day of the 2016 presidential campaign, but in Tyler, Texas, it's not politics on the minds of most folks today. It is, rather, the story of ten-year-old Kayla Gomez-Orozco, the subject of a statewide Amber Alert since she went missing after a church service last Tuesday night.

Her body was found Sunday morning behind a home in Bullard, Texas. About 300 people turned out last night at Kayla's elementary school for a vigil. A family member has been arrested and is being held in the Smith County Jail on a federal Immigration Customs detainer. The suspect had been deported in 2014 but returned to Texas a short time later.

The daily newspaper there devotes its entire front page to Kayla's story and how parents are struggling to talk with their own kids about the incident. This is happening at a time when Tyler and the rest of the nation are settling in for an historic election.

Here's our last statewide editors' roundtable before the 2016 election, with editors from Tyler, El Paso and Odessa.


From Texas Standard

After reports that Child Protective Services caseworkers have let thousands of children at risk for abuse and neglect slip through the system’s cracks, a select team of police will begin to search the state for them.

From Texas Standard:

With compounding reports of Donald Trump’s alleged sexual abuse of women, it’s easy to forget his earlier outrageous claims. Case in point – the border wall.

The San Antonio Express-News spent the last month exploring just how real a border wall could be and reporter Jason Buch, who worked on the project, says wall rhetoric doesn’t often match reality.

 


From Texas Standard:

The use of lethal force by police, against people of color in particular, is deeply troubling the nation. Complicating the search for solutions is a lack of actual data. Nationwide, police haven't been keeping count of these incidents, leaving us with far more questions than answers. In fact, only two states require police to report officer-involved shooting deaths: California and Texas.

But police departments in both states have been violating the law. A new report from Texas State University has discovered hundreds of unreported lethal shootings in both states.

 


From Texas Standard:

Since the 1970s, federal law has stated that all children with disabilities are entitled to a free public education appropriate to their needs. Nationwide, the percentage of kids who receive special ed services is around 13 percent.

But in Texas, that number is substantially lower. Just 8.5 percent of all public school kids in Texas are enrolled in special ed programs – the lowest percentage in the country. That number appears to be no mere accident – instead, it’s a rather specific objective.


From Texas Standard:

The debate over campus carry across Texas has been a noisy one – and nowhere’s been noisier than the University of Texas at Austin. You've likely heard about the student protests, the counter-protests, and, of course, the sex toys.

But now a YouTube video has upped the ante on the outrage scale.


From Texas Standard:

Police shootings from around the country have often topped the news for the past year, but details about how much they happen, and who these shootings affect most, have been sparse. The Texas Tribune spent nearly a year putting together a digital project exploring the number of shootings they could independently confirm have happened between 2010 and 2015.

"Unholstered: When Texas Police Pull the Trigger" looks at officer-involved shootings in 36 of the state’s major Texas cities with over 100,000 residents. The project comes complete with data visualizations and six in-depth articles that dig into the data’s implications.


From Texas Standard:

The Texas Department of Public Safety is asking for $1 billion to fund its border operations next year. But the state comptroller has been issuing warnings about a possible need for budgetary belt tightening.

But the department says it needs the money to buy new border cameras, replace aging vehicles, buy two helicopters, four planes and, perhaps most significantly, double the number of troops at the border – upping the number of troops at the border to 500.

 


From Texas Standard:

Earlier this week, a federal judge sided with Texas' request to block a federal directive for schools to accommodate the bathroom choices of transgender students. Attorney General Ken Paxton said he was pleased – but not surprised – by the court's order, and subsequently filed suit to remove discrimination protections against health insurers.

The Human Rights Campaign, among others, blasted that move as shameful, cheap and political. Others have been far more harsh in their assessments – both of Paxton and Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who says he's not sure he's ever known a transgender person.

 


From Texas Standard:

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has an idea to lower college costs across the board: get rid of what's called "tuition set-asides" for students who need financial help. Generations of Texans have benefited from the financial aid program, but Patrick calls them a hidden tax that unfairly burdens the middle class.

Yesterday, lawmakers began exploring the merits and demerits of Lt. Gov. Patrick's plan, but reporters David McSwane and Lauren McGaughy of the Dallas Morning News have crunched some numbers of their own.

 


When Sasha Von Oldershausen moved from New York City to Presidio, Texas, a few years back, her friends told her to get a gun and lock the doors. They imagined her moving to the stereotypical lawless Southwest.

But Von Oldershausen knew better – in the vast majority of the tiny Texas towns that dot the borderlands, crime rates are low, the landscape is indescribably beautiful and the sense of solitude is profound. Then ,she discovered she wasn't nearly as alone as she thought. Texas Monthly writer Sasha Von Oldershausen recounts her experience in her article "Nothing To Fear But Fear Itself."

Von Oldershausen says she experienced firsthand the capabilities of Border Patrol's surveillance methods while walking on a trail near the Rio Grande one day.

 


From Texas Standard:

Hillary Clinton gives her big speech tonight accepting the Democratic nomination at the party's convention tonight in Philadelphia.

Perhaps you caught the speech from her husband, talking about Hillary's time in south Texas.

"She met one of the nicest fellas I've ever met, the wonderful union leader Franklin Garcia," Bill Clinton said in his speech Tuesday. "He helped her register Mexican-American voters. I think some of them are still around to vote for her in 2016."

If the name Franklin Garcia sounds familiar, there's a reason for that.

 


From Texas Standard:

Texas has been long known for trying to lure businesses from other countries and states around the U.S. Now, the state of New York is getting in on the game. They’re running ads nationwide, including Texas media channels – like news site KXAN in Austin.

From Texas Standard:

Over the past week, the Brazos River has risen to its highest level in more than 100 years. The rains that caused the overflow have led to at least six deaths in Texas.

Meteorologists are predicting that some 10 inches of rain will fall in the Houston area over the next several days. If so, we may be looking at another round of devastation in the fourth largest city in the nation. Houston has activated its emergency operations center.


From Texas Standard:

Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton intends to rise to the challenge of that old Texas motto: Come and Take It.


From Texas Standard:

Sandra Bland, the 28-year-old Texan arrested and charged with assaulting a public servant at a traffic stop on July 10, 2015, ended up in jail in part because she didn’t have $500 to make bail. Robert Durst, on the other hand, was arrested in New Orleans on charges of murder for slaying a friend, then released on a $2.5 million bond.

Sen. Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) says those two disparate cases come to mind as examples of two separate systems of justice in the country: “One for the rich and one for the poor.”


From Texas StandardData from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection show apprehensions of families and unaccompanied minors crossing the Texas-Mexico border has hit levels not seen since the 2014 border surge. There were more than 7,100 such cases in the Rio Grande sector last month alone.

Summer is the time we usually see spikes in illegal border crossings, so what does this mean for the coming season?


From Texas Standard:

This week, Texas lawmakers in both the Senate and House vowed to end the abuse of emergency leave for state workers.

From Texas Standard:

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller's recent visit to Mississippi has him bucking big criticism.

Miller went to compete for prize money – netting over $800 in winnings for calf-roping – and paid for the whole thing using a combination of state and campaign funds.

From Texas Standard:

Last May, nine people were killed, 20 injured and 177 people were arrested in a biker shootout at a Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco. One hundred fifty people were indicted with a $1 million bail set for each of them. As we approach one year later, not a single person has seen trial. In fact, there hasn't been a single trial date set, either.

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