KLRU NewsBriefs: Education Advocates Focus on Attendance, UT Program Supports Financially Independent Students

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The school year is now in full swing, and we have two education stories during PBS NewsHour this weekend to help ease you into things.

On Saturday, we hear from AISD Interim Superintendent Dr. Paul Cruz about why attendance is one of the district’s top priorities.

“We can tell from early on, as early as 5th grade, we can look at if a student is meeting promotion standards, if the student has a good attendance record and if a student is passing all of his or her classes,” Dr. Cruz said. “If that’s not happening, there’s a student who is at risk of not graduating on time with his or her class. [Our first step is] an immediate conversation with the parents to see what we can do to help out the student and the family.”

On Sunday, we hear about Horns Helping Horns, a group from New Student Services on the UT campus which offers emotional and financial support to students who are not receiving any financial help from family.

“I think students have challenges no matter what their background is and I think our students and our community a lot of times because they don’t have that emotional and financial support are dealing with a lot more stuff,” Esmer Bedia, the Horns Helping Horns Coordinator said. “But, the majority of our students are succeeding and graduating and I think that’s because we’re telling them, ya’ll can do it, you will do it and they do succeed.”

KLRU NewsBriefs air locally during PBS NewsHour Weekend, Saturday and Sunday evening at 6:30. 

 

 

 

Civic Summit: Mayoral Candidate Forum is now online

Austin voters will elect 10 council members in November from 10 new geographic districts. They’ll also elect a new mayor who will be the only person on the dais tasked with governing the city as a whole. On Wednesday, August 27, KLRU and the Austin Urban Land Institute hosted the first televised mayoral debate of the election cycle.

Steve Adler, Sheryl Cole, Mike Martinez, Todd Phelps and Randall Stephens answered questions from moderator Jennifer Stayton, host of Morning Edition on KUT 90.5, Austin’s NPR station. Most of the conversation centered around transportation as well as how the mayoral candidates plan to manage a larger, more diverse City Council.

Watch the video above to hear each candidate’s plan to move Austin forward. Election Day is November 4.

KLRU NewsBriefs: Drought impacts state’s freshwater supply

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This weekend during PBS NewsHour we have two stories that’ll make you appreciate your local swimming hole over the holiday weekend. Both stories come from our partners at The Texas Tribune.

Labor Day tubers heading for the Guadalupe River may want to watch our story from the Tribune’s Alana Rocha on Saturday. Riders are seeing slower currents and at some spots they have to get out and walk.

“With the reduced spring flow, the speed of the current is so slow that what normally a float trip would require a six-pack – now will require a case,” Bill West of the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority quipped.

A longer version of this story is available on The Texas Tribune’s website.

On Sunday, our story travels further south from Austin, all the way to Matagorda Bay. The state’s second largest estuary is at the intersection of the inter-coastal waterway and the Colorado River. Less rain means less freshwater flowing into the area, which is harming seafood and the businesses that depend on it.

“For the Bay to recover we need several things: we need a lot of rain. Also we need to look for cooperative management of our freshwater inflows into the bay,” Leslie Hartman, Matagorda Bay Ecosystem Leader for Texas Parks and Wildlife said. “Certainly people in Austin need fresh water but our bays need fresh water as well.

You can see an extended version of that story here.

 KLRU NewsBriefs air locally during PBS NewsHour Weekend at 6:30pm on Saturday and Sunday. 

KLRU NewsBriefs: Expanding Health Education in Austin and Harris County Jail program helps female inmates

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On Saturday during PBS NewsHour Weekend, we hear about an Austin based non-profit establishing innovative techniques in the realm of healthy living education.

KLRU intern Bria Lott brings us the story about WeViva, an organization dedicated to promoting healthy eating and regular fitness habits to adults living in Austin’s low income communities. They provide a team of traveling nutritionists and fitness instructors to people who might not have access to these resources otherwise.

“We bring it to locations that may not have that supportive environment built in. Maybe they’re typically unsafe neighborhoods or people don’t want to go outside, but by bringing something to them that’s fun and enjoyable and free they’ll want to come out for it,” Founder Carolyn Haney said.

In the beginning stages WeViva started in only one neighborhood. They now serve 14 communities across Austin with intentions for growth in the near future.

On Sunday, our story comes from our partners at The Texas Tribune. Reporter Alana Rocha went inside the Harris County Jail to talk to female inmates participating in the “We’ve Been There Done That” rehabilitation program.

Most of the women have been charged with prostitution and those sentenced to the program must serve a minimum of 90 days, time that counts toward their sentence. The program has been so successful that the 83rd state legislature passed a law to establish prostitution courts elsewhere in Texas.

You can learn more about the program in the Tribune’s story here.

KLRU NewsBriefs air locally during PBS NewsHour Weekend at 6:30 on Saturday and Sunday evening. 

KLRU NewsBriefs: Austin’s Growing Muslim Community and a New Farm School

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On Saturday during PBS NewsHour we hear about Austin’s growing Muslim population. Muslims around the world marked the end of Ramadan this week with Eid al-Fitr. Thousands of worshipers gathered at the North Austin Event Center on Monday to pray and listen to a sermon. It was a huge turnout for the growing community in Austin, and next  year organizers are planning to move to an even bigger venue.

“Every year is more than we can handle,” Imam Islam Mossaad of the North Austin Community Center said Monday.

Imam Islam said that growth comes from immigrants from all over the world, as well as new converts.

“Muslims [are] spread out throughout the rest of the world, 1.5 billion Muslims, [and] in Austin that diversity is reflected. But also with the added touch of people who are Caucasian-American or African-American or Latino-American who are also coming into Islam,” Imam Islam said. “You have more than 80 different countries represented here today, probably more than that, but we are all also Americans at the same time and so we practice our faith here freely.”

On Sunday, our story is about Austin’s first ever farm school, opening this fall. Farmer Starter grew out of Farmshare Austin, a non-profit focused on educating Central Texans about farming and increasing access to organic, locally-grown food.

“It’s a very challenging business and this is a kind of challenging environment to do it in but we feel that local organic food is a human right and that people should have access to that kind of product and so we want to make sure that it’s widely available in our community,” Farmshare Austin Executive Director Taylor Cook said.

Enrolled students will live and work on the Farmer Starter farm, 10 miles east of Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, for six months. They will learn seed starting, harvesting, marketing, as well as financial and business planning, among other skills.

Farmshare Austin is currently trying to raise $50,000 in an Indiegogo campaign to fund construction and student scholarships. You can learn more about the school on their website.

KLRU NewsBriefs air locally on Saturday and Sunday during PBS NewsHour Weekend starting at 6:30pm. 

 

KLRU NewsBriefs: E3 Alliance Central Texas Education Profile

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This weekend during PBS NewsHour we talk to the E3 Alliance about their 2014 Central Texas Education Profile, an in-depth report of educational data covering trends and outcomes for the entire Central Texas region.

On Saturday, we talk to Susan Dawson, Executive Director of E3.

“We use [the data] to inform the community and inform better decision making around education, whether it’s for superintendents and school districts, business and community leaders, for nonprofits who work in the education space, policy makers, all of us throughout the region have different pieces of impact on the education space and it’s to inform that impact through objective data,” Dawson said.

Dawson told us Central Texas is unique because of the area’s rapid growth. Texas has the fastest growing student population of all 50 states in the country and Central Texas’ student population is growing at twice the state’s rate, and of that growth, low income students and English Language Learners are growing at twice that rate.

“So the students who we’re working hardest to help succeed are growing at twice the rate of the region which is already twice the rate of the fastest growing state in the entire country,” Dawson emphasized.

On Sunday, we talk to E3′s Director of Policy and Research, Shawn Thomas. Thomas explained some of this year’s findings regarding our region’s dropout rate.

“For the last decade, we’ve seen that our graduation rates for low income students were lower than graduation rates for low income students in the other urban areas across the state including Houston, Dallas, El Paso and San Antonio. But, this year we saw that change for the first time with our 2012 graduation rates,” Thomas said. “We do know that there’s a very strong relationship between attendance and graduation rates and we know that attendance patterns in our region have changed over the past few years as well.”

You can see the entire E3 Alliance Central Texas Education Profile on the organization’s website.

KLRU News Briefs air locally on Saturday and Sunday during PBS NewsHour Weekend starting at 6:30pm. 

KLRU Mayoral Forum August 27 – Presented with the Austin Urban Land Institute

Civic Summit

By now you’ve probably heard the news: Austin voters will elect 10 council members in November from 10 new geographic districts. They’ll also elect a new mayor, the only person on the dais tasked with governing the city as a whole. KLRU and the Austin Urban Land Institute are excited to announce we will host one of the first mayoral debates of the election cycle, just days after filing closes, moderated by Jennifer Stayton of KUT News.

During Civic Summit: Mayoral Candidate Forum we’ll hear each candidate’s plan to move Austin forward and find out how each will navigate a new council structure with 10 distinct points of view.

To participate in the forum candidates must have officially filed all of the necessary paperwork required to appear on the ballot. Each candidate must also show evidence of a campaign. That includes, but is not limited to, distribution of volunteers and contributors, presence of a headquarters, campaign staff, and campaign appearances. Candidacy must also be significant, meaning the candidate can demonstrate voter interest and support either in the form of independent and reliable polling or media coverage.

The forum will take place in KLRU’s Studio 6A on August 27 starting at 7pm and will be open to the public. Doors open at 6:30pm. An RSVP link will be coming soon. The forum will be broadcast on KLRU the following evening, Thursday, August 28 at 8pm.

KLRU NewsBriefs air a Texas Tribune Investigation: Hurting for Work

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This weekend during PBS NewsHour we partnered with The Texas Tribune to bring you part of their investigation Hurting for Work You can see extended versions of these stories and other stories in the investigation here.

On Saturday, Texas Tribune Multimedia Reporter Alana Rocha tells the story of Santiago Arias. In 2006 Arias fell two stories to the ground while working for a contractor in Houston. He now has no feeling from the chest down. He only remembers waking up in the hospital.

“I could hear [people in the hospital], but I couldn’t express anything. I could hear them say I was quadriplegic, but I didn’t know what that was,” Arias said.

His employer did not carry workers’ compensation insurance. Texas is the only state in the country that doesn’t require employers to provide coverage.

You can see and read an extended version of Arias’ story here.

On Sunday, part two of the Tribune investigation focuses on Crystal Davis. Davis’ husband, Wayne Davis, died while traveling from their home to a Burger King franchise. He worked as a sales, profit and operations coach for Burger King and was among the 81 percent of Texas workers covered by worker’s compensation insurance.

Davis had to fight to receive payments from the insurance company, which claimed her husband was not working when he died. Just days after The Texas Tribune’s reporting of Davis’ case, the insurance company dropped their lawsuit against Davis and her two children.

You can see and read the extended version of Davis’ story here.

Both stories were produced by The Texas Tribune. They air on KLRU during PBS NewsHour Weekend at 6:30pm on Saturday and Sunday. 

 

Fisher v. University of Texas: Update

It’s been more than a year since the United States Supreme Court issued its ruling in Fisher v. University of Texas. If you’ve been following the story, you already know that ruling was a cliffhanger, more like the middle of a story than the end. Instead of announcing a final, unassailable decision, the Court made an unusual choice. The justices sent the case back to a lower court, ordering the 5th Circuit to take another look at the arguments and the facts.

On Tuesday afternoon, the 5th Circuit announced its decision, a 2-1 ruling that upholds the current system of admissionsat The University of Texas. That tells us how this chapter of the Fisher story ends. But we also know that the story continues – perhaps with a new appeal to the Supreme Court, and almost certainly with future lawsuits by other plaintiffs against other schools.

If you haven’t been following the case closely, here’s what you need to know.  In 2008, a young woman named Abigail Fisher brought a lawsuit challenging the use of race in undergraduate admissions at The University of Texas. At the time,Fisher v. University of Texas was the latest in a long line of cases examining the use of race in university admissions – in California, in Michigan, and nationwide. It was also the third major case looking at the role of race and admissions at UT. Fisher’s case moved quickly through the district court, then reached the 5th Circuit; both upheld the university’s admissions policies. Fisher appealed to the US Supreme Court, which took the case and heard oral arguments in the fall of 2012.

In May of last year, KLRU aired a documentary called Admissions on Trial: Seven Decades of Race and Higher Education, an award-winning project that was co-produced by Villita Media and directed by Lynn Boswell. Our goal was to provide clear and unbiased context for the Fisher case by exploring the history of race and admissions at The University of Texas, and by examining the debate about race in admissions nationwide. Less than a month after our initial broadcast, the Supreme Court announced its decision in Fisher. Remanding the case to a lower court sent a clear signal that Fisher was not yet over, and a strong message that this story is one that will remain important for a long time to come.

In the year since Admissions on Trial first ran, this story has continued to develop rapidly. The Supreme Court upheld Michigan’s ban on affirmative action at state universities, which had been passed by voters as a constitutional amendment. Edward Blum and the Project on Fair Representation – backers of Abigail Fisher’s suit – have begun seeking plaintiffs to challenge admissions at three more universities. And people across the nation have continued to talk about many of the hottest hot-button questions surrounding higher education, including defining equality of access, ensuring that students who enroll in college graduate, and figuring out how students who are accepted to college can afford to attend.

These questions impact a wide variety of people: applicants and admissions officers; students and their parents; activists and university administrators; employers and society as a whole. People with a wide range of opinions have told us they believe questions about the role of race in admissions matter so much simply because education matters so much – as a door to opportunity and a foundation for life-long success. Fairness, we have been told, is crucial. The difference comes because the definition of that fairness can vary so widely.

KLRU plans to examine this latest development in the Fisher case with an updated documentary – a look at recent events and an exploration of what’s likely to come next as the debate about race-conscious admissions evolves. The project will include a website and lesson plans to expand the project’s impact and reach. We hope you’ll join us as we continue our work on this important topic.