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 Gets No Child Left Behind Waiver, With a Caveat

Texas Commissioner of Education Michael Williams answers a question at Tribune event on Jan. 10, 2013.
Texas Commissioner of Education Michael Williams answers a question at Tribune event on Jan. 10, 2013.

The U.S. Department of Education has granted conditional approval of the state's No Child Left Behind waiver. But it remains unclear whether a standoff between the state and the federal government over educator evaluations has come to an end.

In North Texas, McCarty and Tea Party Flourish

Julie McCarty during the 'What Does The Tea Party Want?' keynote session of The Texas Tribune Festival on Sep. 28, 2013.
Julie McCarty during the 'What Does The Tea Party Want?' keynote session of The Texas Tribune Festival on Sep. 28, 2013.

What began as an almost accidental plunge into politics for Julie McCarty has evolved into what is arguably the state’s most influential Tea Party group, supplanting some of the power held by traditional Texas centers of conservative gravity.

Paxton Goes to Church, Extols Christian Voices in Politics

TX Attorney General Ken Paxton, speaks at event hosted by the Texas Public Policy Foundation regarding impact of the EPA's Clean Power Plan on June 22, 2015
TX Attorney General Ken Paxton, speaks at event hosted by the Texas Public Policy Foundation regarding impact of the EPA's Clean Power Plan on June 22, 2015

In a rare public appearance since his indictment in late July, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton made an appeal for more Christian involvement in politics as he addressed the congregation at First Baptist Grapevine Sunday.

Paxton Pleads Not Guilty; Lawyer Quits Case

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton arrives at court in Fort Worth to plead not guilty to felony charges.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton arrives at court in Fort Worth to plead not guilty to felony charges.

Attorney General Ken Paxton's first courtroom appearance as a criminal defendant was a 30-minute affair during which Paxton's lead lawyer quit for unspecified reasons, the attorney general insisted no cameras be allowed at his trial and the judge admonished everyone to limit public statements about the case.

A Guide to the Legal Players in the Paxton Case

Top, left to right: Special Prosecutor Brian Wice, Paxton Attorney Joe Kendall. Bottom, left to right: Judge George Gallagher; Special Prosecutor Kent Schaffer.
Top, left to right: Special Prosecutor Brian Wice, Paxton Attorney Joe Kendall. Bottom, left to right: Judge George Gallagher; Special Prosecutor Kent Schaffer.

As allegations that Ken Paxton improperly steered people into investments while failing to disclose his own financial involvement take the spotlight, so have a series of legal heavyweights on both sides of the case.

 

 

In Bastrop, Jade Helm Begins With a Whimper

Operation Jade Helm 15, a military training exercise, begins Wednesday in 12 Texas counties: Bastrop, Burleson, Brazos, Edwards, Howard, Hudspeth, Kimble, Martin, Marion, Real, Schleicher and Tom Green. It will also take place at Camp Bullis in San Antonio and Camp Swift in Bastrop County.
Operation Jade Helm 15, a military training exercise, begins Wednesday in 12 Texas counties: Bastrop, Burleson, Brazos, Edwards, Howard, Hudspeth, Kimble, Martin, Marion, Real, Schleicher and Tom Green. It will also take place at Camp Bullis in San Antonio and Camp Swift in Bastrop County.

The predictions included martial law, mass citizen roundups and widespread gun seizures. So what really happened as Jade Helm 15 started Wednesday in Bastrop County was pretty damn boring.

Despite Legal Woes, Paxton Emerges as Culture Warrior

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks to media in June 2015.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks to media in June 2015.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, under scrutiny for his financial dealings, stayed out of sight and coasted into office last fall as part of the new Republican leadership. Now his legal troubles are back, just as he's emerging as the hero for social conservatives who fueled his candidacy.