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

In Trial Lawyer, Perry Finds a Tenacious Advocate

Gov. Perry and his lead attorney, Tony Buzbee, walk to Blackwell-Thurman Criminal Justice Center for his booking on Aug. 19, 2014.
Gov. Perry and his lead attorney, Tony Buzbee, walk to Blackwell-Thurman Criminal Justice Center for his booking on Aug. 19, 2014.

Tony Buzbee, who is leading Gov. Rick Perry's defense, has made a fortune being the kind of lawyer the governor has spent much of his time in office villainizing. But Buzbee rejects the suggestion that he was an unconventional pick.

Education Commissioner: "The System Needs to Catch Up"

Education Commissioner Michael Williams, a former railroad commissioner, is shown at a TribLive event on Jan. 27, 2011.
Education Commissioner Michael Williams, a former railroad commissioner, is shown at a TribLive event on Jan. 27, 2011.

UPDATED: Asked why the state had delayed a transition away from lower passing standards on state exams, Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams told state lawmakers Tuesday that classroom instruction had failed to meet the rigor demanded by the new tests. 

With Uncertainty, Schools Prepare for New Arrivals

On June 24, 2014, volunteers gather at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in McAllen, where the Rio Grande Valley Catholic Charities have a makeshift shelter to help handle the surge of immigrants who have crossed into the U.S. in recent weeks.
On June 24, 2014, volunteers gather at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in McAllen, where the Rio Grande Valley Catholic Charities have a makeshift shelter to help handle the surge of immigrants who have crossed into the U.S. in recent weeks.

Many unaccompanied minors fleeing violence in Central America remain in Texas, and public school administrators face the challenge of providing an education for them.

Williams Discusses Decision to Approve Charter

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

UPDATED: Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams told State Board of Education members Wednesday that said that when he approved a charter school's expansion into the Dallas area, he was following the spirit of a 2013 law. 

As Teacher Pay Lags, Attrition and Class Size Grow

A study released by Sam Houston State University in October 2013 that was commissioned by the Texas State Teachers Association showed a marked increase in teachers reporting that they had taken second jobs during the school year to make ends meet.
A study released by Sam Houston State University in October 2013 that was commissioned by the Texas State Teachers Association showed a marked increase in teachers reporting that they had taken second jobs during the school year to make ends meet.

Stacked up against other states, Texas public schools could win the best-bang-for-your-buck competition. The state spends less than most others, and its students perform better than many. But the commitment to fiscal restraint has come with its own burdens for teachers.

Academic Gains Slowing; No Consensus on Why

Texas' improvement on national academic measures has begun to stall in recent years. In 2013, for the first time in 15 years, math and reading scores went down or stayed the same for black and Hispanic students in both fourth and eighth grades. The scores also went down for Anglo students in some areas.
Texas' improvement on national academic measures has begun to stall in recent years. In 2013, for the first time in 15 years, math and reading scores went down or stayed the same for black and Hispanic students in both fourth and eighth grades. The scores also went down for Anglo students in some areas.

Over the last decade, Texas students have made steady progress on a number of academic measures. But in recent years, that improvement has begun to stall.