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

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.

Patrick and Dewhurst Go From Allies to Opponents

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.

When state Sen. Dan Patrick endorsed Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst's unsuccessful U.S. Senate bid last year, it helped turn the two men from sometime-rivals into allies. But now, Patrick has become Dewhurst’s fiercest critic among the field of candidates hoping to unseat him.

Despite National Spotlight, Davis Faces Fight in Texas

Senator Wendy Davis goes to Haranbee Festival in Fort Worth to encourage voters, after sending out her volunteers for Walk for Wendy, on October 6, 2012.
Senator Wendy Davis goes to Haranbee Festival in Fort Worth to encourage voters, after sending out her volunteers for Walk for Wendy, on October 6, 2012.

Wendy Davis came off the Senate floor early Wednesday as the national Democratic Party's newest star. But what effect her 11-hour filibuster to stop abortion legislation will have on her political prospects in Texas is an open question.

Re-examining High School's Senior Year to Benefit Pre-K

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.

With the help of a new law, the Dallas Independent School District is designing a program that will funnel money saved when students graduate early into expanding pre-kindergarten offerings.  

Texas School Finance Trial Goes for Round Two

After a trial that lasted more than three months, Judge John Dietz ruled in February that the state's school finance system is unconstitutional.
After a trial that lasted more than three months, Judge John Dietz ruled in February that the state's school finance system is unconstitutional.

After hearing brief arguments on whether to reopen evidence in the school finance case because of laws passed during the legislative session, state district court Judge John Dietz announced Wednesday that a new, six-week trial will begin in January.