Morgan Smith Reporter

Morgan Smith reports on politics and education for the Tribune, which she joined in November 2009. She writes about the effects of the state budget, school finance reform, accountability and testing in Texas public schools. Her political coverage has included congressional and legislative races, as well as Gov. Rick Perry's presidential campaign, which she followed to Iowa and New Hampshire. In 2013, she received a National Education Writers Association award for "Death of a District," a series on school closures. After earning a bachelor's degree in English from Wellesley College, she moved to Austin in 2008 to enter law school at the University of Texas. A San Antonio native, her work has also appeared in Slate, where she spent a year as an editorial intern in Washington D.C.

Recent Contributions

Texas Takes Last Pass at Social Studies Textbooks

State Board of Education members work their way through proposed revisions to social studies textbooks at a meeting with publishers in Austin on Monday, October 20, 2014.
State Board of Education members work their way through proposed revisions to social studies textbooks at a meeting with publishers in Austin on Monday, October 20, 2014.

In a month, the State Board of Education will take a final vote on the social studies textbooks that will be used in the state's public schools for the next eight years. 

Texas Schools Face Fears of Ebola, Lagging Attendance

Colorized scanning electron micrograph of filamentous Ebola virus particles (red) attached and budding from a chronically infected VERO E6 cell (blue) (25,000x magnification).
Colorized scanning electron micrograph of filamentous Ebola virus particles (red) attached and budding from a chronically infected VERO E6 cell (blue) (25,000x magnification).

Though Texas schools are relying on the guidance of health officials to determine the level of risk to their communities, they are making decisions like whether to cancel classes, give notice to parents, or change health screening policies largely on their own.

Lawmakers Might Address Graduation Hurdles

Students in Yvonne McDaniel's English for Speakers of Other Languages, or ESOL, class participated in English-language exercises during summer school at McCallum High School in Austin on July 31, 2013.
Students in Yvonne McDaniel's English for Speakers of Other Languages, or ESOL, class participated in English-language exercises during summer school at McCallum High School in Austin on July 31, 2013.

If roughly 47,000 high school seniors in December fail to pass the state exams required to earn a diploma, their last shot at graduating with their peers in the Class of 2015 may depend on the quick movement of state lawmakers.

Patrick Leading Van de Putte in Campaign Cash

Sen.Leticia Van de Putte D-San Antonio and Sen. Dan Patrick R-Houston during during a joint Interim Committee to Study Human Trafficking in La Joya, Texas on July 24th, 2014. Both Senators are candidates to become the next Lt. Governor of Texas
Sen.Leticia Van de Putte D-San Antonio and Sen. Dan Patrick R-Houston during during a joint Interim Committee to Study Human Trafficking in La Joya, Texas on July 24th, 2014. Both Senators are candidates to become the next Lt. Governor of Texas

UPDATED: A month before the November election, Republican lieutenant governor hopeful Dan Patrick has about $2 million more in his campaign bank account than his Democratic opponent, Leticia Van de Putte, according to figures released by both candidates. 

AG to Appeal School Finance Ruling to Supreme Court

District Court Judge John Dietz of Austin is shown in his courtroom on Feb. 4, 2013, before he ruled that the state's school finance system was unconstitutional.
District Court Judge John Dietz of Austin is shown in his courtroom on Feb. 4, 2013, before he ruled that the state's school finance system was unconstitutional.

UPDATED: Attorney General Greg Abbott will appeal a ruling that the Texas school finance system is unconstitutional, according to a notice his office sent Friday to attorneys in the case. The appeal is set to go directly to the Texas Supreme Court.

SBOE Members Question Teacher Prep Requirements

Science educator Barbara Cargill of The Woodlands speaks to the Senate Nominations Committee about her nomination as chair of the State Board of Education on Feb. 11, 2013.
Science educator Barbara Cargill of The Woodlands speaks to the Senate Nominations Committee about her nomination as chair of the State Board of Education on Feb. 11, 2013.

State Board of Education members said Thursday that they hoped to persuade regulators overseeing the teaching profession to reconsider a decision made against raising the minimum GPA for educator certification programs.

Texas Schools Get Military Gear Through Federal Program

Austin Police Officer Cory Ehrler monitors the entrance to Ridgetop Elementary School after classes start on the Monday following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. As the 83rd legislative session approaches, Texas lawmakers are considering making firearms more available to teachers and other school personnel.
Austin Police Officer Cory Ehrler monitors the entrance to Ridgetop Elementary School after classes start on the Monday following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. As the 83rd legislative session approaches, Texas lawmakers are considering making firearms more available to teachers and other school personnel.

At least 10 Texas school districts have received armored plating, tactical vests, military vehicles, rifles, pistols and rounds of ammunition through a federal military surplus program.

Texplainer: What's State's Strategy in School Finance Case?

Shelley Dahlberg, an assistant attorney general, spoke to District Court Judge John Dietz of Austin on on Feb. 3, 2013, during closing arguments of a trial challenging the state's school finance system.
Shelley Dahlberg, an assistant attorney general, spoke to District Court Judge John Dietz of Austin on on Feb. 3, 2013, during closing arguments of a trial challenging the state's school finance system.

Hey, Texplainer: I know the state plans to appeal a judge's recent decision that Texas' school finance system is unconstitutional. But what will the state's defense be moving forward?