The fifth annual Texas Tribune Festival took place on the University of Texas campus last weekend, bringing with it hundreds of lawmakers, policy experts, and civically-minded Texans for in-depth conversations and panels about issues facing our state. KLRU’s Public Affairs team attended the Fest, and while we wish we could have cloned ourselves and seen even more, there are a few panels we keep thinking about almost a week later.
How to Turn a School Around
After spending January-August reporting on Eastside Memorial High School’s struggles to make state accountability, we knew we couldn’t miss this panel. Austin ISD Superintendent Dr. Paul Cruz spoke, along with Donna Bahorich, Chairwoman of the SBOE, David Anthony of Raise Your Hand Texas, Superintendent Juan Cabrera of El Paso ISD, and Steven Tallant of Texas A&M University-Kingsville.
When asked how AISD turned Eastside around after more than a decade of failing scores, Dr. Cruz explained the process was complex because of the low-income community the school serves.
“It was a very methodical process,” Dr. Cruz said, explaining that TEA gave Eastside and AISD more time than usual in the reconstitution plan. Cruz stressed the importance of understanding the home lives of at-risk students, and the need for a “community schools approach.”
An audience member who serves on a school board in another Texas district asked Dr. Cruz if AISD would be releasing a white paper about the methods used at Eastside. Dr. Cruz said yes, a report will be compiled so other districts can see what worked.
One-on-One with Nancy Pelosi
Another high point for us during the Texas Tribune Festival was the National Keynote with U.S. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. Pelosi sat down with Tribune Washington Bureau Chief Abby Livingston in front of a packed audience in Hogg Memorial Auditorium.
Seemingly no topic was off limits – Pelosi discussed the House Speaker race, Hillary Clinton’s run for office, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Iran nuclear deal, immigration reform, gun control, and even Ann Richards.
Pelosi said she is confident Democrats will regain control of the U.S. House by 2018, though she was noncommittal when asked if she would hold the Speaker’s gavel again. “I think the Democrats can have the gavel in 18 months,” she said.
When asked how to ensure more women run for office and are elected, Pelosi blamed campaign finance. Repeatedly during her keynote conversation she stressed the need to limit the amount of money that can be contributed to campaigns and Super PACs. She said if the money could be reigned in, more women and more minorities would run for office and be successful getting elected.
You can see video from Leader Pelosi’s conversation in the video below, courtesy of The Texas Tribune. All of the keynote events were recorded and can be seen here.