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

Budget Debate Tackles School Funding, Incentive Programs

State Rep. John Otto, R-Dayton, carries literature laying out House Bill 1 as he prepares to discuss the appropriations bill on the House floor March 31, 2015.
State Rep. John Otto, R-Dayton, carries literature laying out House Bill 1 as he prepares to discuss the appropriations bill on the House floor March 31, 2015.

With more than 350 proposed amendments before then, the Texas House is likely to go well into the evening before getting to a final vote on the $210 billion budget. Early discussions addressed school funding and incentives programs.

Long Legislative Road for Voucher Bills Begins

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick listens to debate on SB 8  franchise tax reform measure during Senate action March 25, 2015.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick listens to debate on SB 8 franchise tax reform measure during Senate action March 25, 2015.

A preview of the looming battle over school vouchers played out Thursday as a state Senate panel considered two proposals to provide state financial support to parents who want to send their children to private schools.

Campus Carry Gets Initial OK in Senate

Sen. Kirk Watson speaks with the author of Senate Bill 11, Sen. Brian Birdwell, as Sen. Joan Huffman listens on. The Senate's campus carry debate began on Mar. 18, 2015.
Sen. Kirk Watson speaks with the author of Senate Bill 11, Sen. Brian Birdwell, as Sen. Joan Huffman listens on. The Senate's campus carry debate began on Mar. 18, 2015.

Following a preliminary Senate vote on Wednesday, Texas is now a step closer to requiring public colleges and universities to allow concealed handguns on campus — a policy opposed by many higher education leaders. 

 

Texas Senate Approves Open Carry of Handguns

Jason Orsek with Come and Take it America wears a cloth gun holder with a photo of a gun imprinted on it at the Texas Capitol on Feb. 12, 2015, when the Senate Committee on State Affairs heard testimony on gun-related bills.
Jason Orsek with Come and Take it America wears a cloth gun holder with a photo of a gun imprinted on it at the Texas Capitol on Feb. 12, 2015, when the Senate Committee on State Affairs heard testimony on gun-related bills.

A bill lifting some of the state's restrictions on handguns passed easily on a 20-11 vote after repeated Democratic efforts to amend it were defeated. 

Talk Turns to Standards as Lawmakers Weigh Pre-K Bills

Students in Pre-K teacher Josefina Pineda's class sing to practice their language skills at the Dallas Independent School District Cesar Chavez Learning Center in Dallas, Texas.
Students in Pre-K teacher Josefina Pineda's class sing to practice their language skills at the Dallas Independent School District Cesar Chavez Learning Center in Dallas, Texas.

As legislators considered several early education bills Tuesday afternoon, testimony was dominated by a debate over what standards school districts should meet to get additional state funding for pre-kindergarten programs.

 

Early Education Push Earning Lukewarm Reviews

Pre-K teacher Josefina Pineda teaches her students the concept of "push" by having them join hands and push back and forth in her classroom at the Dallas Independent School District elementary school Cesar Chavez Learning Center in Dallas, Texas.
Pre-K teacher Josefina Pineda teaches her students the concept of "push" by having them join hands and push back and forth in her classroom at the Dallas Independent School District elementary school Cesar Chavez Learning Center in Dallas, Texas.

When Gov. Greg Abbott named improving pre-kindergarten programs as a top priority, it signaled a dramatic move in the state’s approach to early education. But so far, the change has been mostly in tone.

House Takes the Lead on Abbott's Pre-K Charge

Teacher Silvia Corado works with students in her pre-kindergarten class as they learn syllables and word identification, part of the Summer Bilingual Academy at Wilson Elementary School in San Antonio.
Teacher Silvia Corado works with students in her pre-kindergarten class as they learn syllables and word identification, part of the Summer Bilingual Academy at Wilson Elementary School in San Antonio.

A week after Gov. Greg Abbott put early education reform on the legislative fast track, top House lawmakers announced Thursday what is likely to become the major pre-kindergarten bill of the session.