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

Senators Grill TEA Chief on Testing, School Funding

Texas Education Agency commissioner Michael Williams announces at a press conference that he is stripping all authority from the El Paso Independent School District Board of Trustees. The move comes in the wake of a cheating scandal that landed the former superintendent in federal prison.
Texas Education Agency commissioner Michael Williams announces at a press conference that he is stripping all authority from the El Paso Independent School District Board of Trustees. The move comes in the wake of a cheating scandal that landed the former superintendent in federal prison.

In a hearing on Wednesday, senators probed Michael Williams, the new head of the Texas Education Agency, on student assessments and funding for remedial tutoring.

Study Sought on Effect of Possible Federal Funding Cuts

Republican State Reps. (l to r) Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen; James White, R-Woodville, Bryan Hughes, R-Marshall,; and Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, work on HB4 budget amendments on March 31, 2011.
Republican State Reps. (l to r) Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen; James White, R-Woodville, Bryan Hughes, R-Marshall,; and Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, work on HB4 budget amendments on March 31, 2011.

State Rep. James White, R-Hillister, has filed legislation that would require the state to study the effects of cutting financial ties with the federal government. The bill is not intended as a call for secession, White said.

Land Board to Transfer $300 Million to School Fund

Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson discusses Texas historical records that document early immigrants like Davy Crockett and Stephen F. Austin.
Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson discusses Texas historical records that document early immigrants like Davy Crockett and Stephen F. Austin.

The School Land Board voted Tuesday to release $300 million into the Available School Fund for public schools. The funds had been caught in a standoff between the Legislature and the board, whose members include Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson.

School Finance Trial Will Make Mark On 83rd Legislature

Texas Weekly

A final decision in the school finance trial against the state involving more than two-thirds of its districts and charter schools likely won’t happen until after the lights go out in the 83rd Legislature. But that doesn’t mean what’s happening inside of the courtroom now won’t have an impact on policy under the pink dome.

To Beef Up School Security, Lawmakers Turn to Firearms

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.

Some Texas legislators are emphasizing the need for teachers and other school personnel to have increased access to firearms on campus. Ahead of the 83rd legislative session, bills have been proposed with that mission in mind.