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.
A report released Wednesday, the result of a year-long effort from a commission of top education thinkers, offers a sweeping set of recommendations aimed at improving the teaching profession in the state.Full Story
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, on Wednesday will unveil education reform legislation that some expect to reignite a fiery debate over the potential use of school vouchers in Texas.Full Story
Following the Connecticut school shooting, Attorney General Greg Abbott has warned 78 out-of-compliance Texas school districts that his office expects them to immediately update their safety plans in accordance with state law.Full Story
State leaders are preparing to push for legislation to expand the choices available for Texas' nearly 5 million public school students. Meanwhile, some local districts are already pursuing similar reforms within their own systems.Full Story
Business leaders said Wednesday that they would support modifications to the new student assessment system implemented this spring — and put forth a plan that provides multiple pathways to high school graduation.Full Story
Two Texas charter schools are each eligible to receive just less than $30 million in federal Race to the Top money. Idea Public Schools and Harmony Science Academy were among 16 winners chosen from 61 finalists from across the nation.Full Story
Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams on Friday announced that he would defer a rule that requires state end-of-course exams count for 15 percent of high school students' final grades.Full Story
Gov. Rick Perry has come out in favor of allowing school districts to choose whether to implement a rule requiring that new state assessments count for 15 percent of high school students' final grades.Full Story
While skeptics say reporting requirements for state graduation rates contain too many loopholes, other education policy experts say Texas deserves credit for implementing innovative programs to keep students in school.Full Story
A few Texas school districts and charters are finalists for funds through a new version of the Obama administration's Race to the Top program. Texas had refused to participate in the program at the state level in 2010, citing concerns over federal intrusion into Texas classrooms.Full Story
Since 1984, Texas has faced six lawsuits over public school funding. Over the years, a chorus of conservative voices has posed another fix for the school finance problem: Why not just change the duties under the state Constitution?Full Story
The massive trial involving more than two-thirds of the state's school districts and most of its charter schools has been under way for two weeks now — and while the evidence will continue to pour in until January, the arguments of all seven parties, including the state, have taken shape.Full Story
State Sen. Dan Patrick says he is ready to champion public schools at the Capitol when the 83rd Legislature convenes in January. Whether the education community is ready to embrace him in that role is another matter.
A report on government debt from Comptroller Susan Combs examines colleges and public school districts, the latter of which are responsible for a third of the money owed at the local level.Full Story