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

Court Order Blocks District's Use of CSCOPE Lessons

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Sen. Dan Patrick in the Senate chamber as political drama unfolds at the Texas Capitol in the last hour of the 83rd Texas Legislature's first special session.
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Sen. Dan Patrick in the Senate chamber as political drama unfolds at the Texas Capitol in the last hour of the 83rd Texas Legislature's first special session.

A group of plaintiffs in the Llano Independent School District has obtained a court order banning the use of CSCOPE lessons until those lessons get State Board of Education approval.

Charter Schools in Churches a Focus of Praise, Concerns

Latisha Andrews is shown on the playground of Beta Academy, which is housed at the Christian Temple Assembly of God Church in Houston on Aug. 6, 2013. She is applying to convert the private school into a charter school.
Latisha Andrews is shown on the playground of Beta Academy, which is housed at the Christian Temple Assembly of God Church in Houston on Aug. 6, 2013. She is applying to convert the private school into a charter school.

Charter schools with ties to faith-based organizations have cropped up across Texas. Proponents say that's a result of smart budgeting, but critics have concerns about oversight and worry that faith-based instruction could enter some classrooms.

A New Perry vs. Doggett Education Fight?

Pre-K students in Josefina Pineda's classroom do the hokey-pokey at the Dallas Independent School District elementary school, Cesar Chavez Learning Center in Dallas, Texas.
Pre-K students in Josefina Pineda's classroom do the hokey-pokey at the Dallas Independent School District elementary school, Cesar Chavez Learning Center in Dallas, Texas.
Texas Weekly

Under a major new Obama administration initiative promoting early education, Texas is eligible for $308 million in federal money to fund full-day pre-kindergarten programs. But the money might never get here. 

Bid to Ease Testing in Lower Grades Comes With Caveat

Bayless Elementary teacher Holly Guillmen identifies and explains the use of the contents of the Waterwise home water conservation kit provided to students by the High Plains Underground Water District in Lubbock, Texas, Oct. 17, 2012.
Bayless Elementary teacher Holly Guillmen identifies and explains the use of the contents of the Waterwise home water conservation kit provided to students by the High Plains Underground Water District in Lubbock, Texas, Oct. 17, 2012.

For parents and educators who want less classroom time spent on state exams, hopes rest on recently passed legislation, but it comes with a challenge: Texas likely must first obtain waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

CSCOPE Changes Focus of Confusion at SBOE Meeting

State Board of Education member-elect Thomas Ratliffe speaks to a special hearing on history in the Capitol Extension.
State Board of Education member-elect Thomas Ratliffe speaks to a special hearing on history in the Capitol Extension.

UPDATED: The State Board of Education will take up the issue of whether school districts can continue to use lessons from a controversial state curriculum system at its September meeting. And the Texas Attorney General's office, along with Education Chairman Dan Patrick, has requested an official state audit of the program.

Districts Prepare for New High School Diploma Rules

Veteran English teacher Sara Brenan works with students at Anderson High School's summer program in the Austin Independent School District.
Veteran English teacher Sara Brenan works with students at Anderson High School's summer program in the Austin Independent School District.

As educators welcome the coming changes in state testing requirements, some school districts are looking ahead at another part of recently passed education reform. The state is expanding the courses that will count toward a high school diploma.