KLRU News Briefs: Texas Tribune on Perry’s Iowa campaign swing

This weekend during PBS NewsHour our local News Briefs are back after a 2 week hiatus. On Saturday, hear again about Creative Action, which fosters creativity and academic success for young people through art. You can watch our piece about Creative Action here.

Our Sunday story comes from our partners at The Texas Tribune. Multimedia Reporter Alana Rocha traveled to Iowa last weekend for former Governor Rick Perry’s first official campaign stop of his 2016 run for president. He spent Saturday, June 6 at a fundraiser for the Puppy Jake Foundation, which trains service dogs for veterans. Perry, one of only two veterans running for the GOP nomination, has made it a priority to connect with that voting bloc.

“One of the reasons I’m running for the presidency of the United States is to make sure that every active duty member of the military and every veteran receives the type of care and recognition that they deserve in this country,” Perry told the crowd.

His second stop was U.S. Senator Joni Ernst’s Roast and Ride in nearby Boone. Perry and six of his fellow GOP presidential hopefuls had 8 minutes each to address the crowd. Perry is planning a seven-city fundraising tour around Texas during his campaign, including Dallas, San Antonio, Lubbock, Houston, Midland, Mission and Beaumont.

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

KLRU News Briefs: Truancy Starts Many on Pipeline to Prison, Texas Tribune Highlights House Budget Debate

Research shows young people who are involved in the court system are more likely to dropout and eventually enter the justice system. This is what people call the School-to-Prison Pipeline, and that is what our Saturday News Briefs examines. This story is part two of a story we brought you last weekend about the push to decriminalize truancy in Texas.

We spoke again to Mary Mergler, Director of Texas Appleseed’s School-to-Prison Pipeline Project about their findings on this issue. She told us the pipeline’s most common victims are minority students.

“African-American and Latino students are sent to court disproportionate to their representation in the student body,” Mergler said. “And what we know about African-American and Latino students is that they are already at a greater risk for being pushed out of school by harsh disciplinary policies. So, our same groups of students who are already at risk, are also the ones being disproportionately sent to court for truancy which we know leads them down that school-to-prison pipeline.”

Special Education students are also over-represented at truancy court. Senator John Whitmire (D-Houston), who chairs the Senate’s Criminal Justice committee, authored one of many truancy bills this legislative session and has been working on this issue for years.

“From a financial standpoint you’re going to pay now or you’re going to pay later,” Senator Whitmire said. “We spend a lot of money on criminal justice. If we would spent a fraction of that on early intervention [and] mental health? I can’t emphasize that enough.”

Once the students are ordered to court for missing school, they and/or their parents face fines up to $500. Texas Appleseed reports 80% of students sent to court for truancy are low income and therefore often unable to pay those fines. In Travis County, Justice of the Peace Judge Yvonne Williams sees some of the poorest families in our region in her courtroom.

“On this side of town, though it’s changing, the average person I see is not able to afford these fines. So to say that I’m going to make you pay a fine is like saying, Okay, fine the blood in me. I’m a turnip. What are you going to do? So you still have that problem,” Williams said.  ”You can’t pay the fine, so you go to jail. So that’s that whole pipeline. I start at school, they get me accustomed to going to court, and then now, I’m an adult, and what the heck? I’m going to prison because I did this or this. I didn’t finish school. So I’m in this underbelly, and it’s okay.”

Judge Williams tells families to plead No Contest, which enters the parent and child into an intervention program and the Class C Misdemeanor is removed from the child’s record.

“I am not going to be part of the clog that makes that happen. My court is never going to be part of that system that makes that happen. I refuse to cooperate,” Williams said.

Our Sunday piece comes from our partners at The Texas Tribune. Every Sunday from now until Sine Die on June 1, we’ll bring you legislative stories from the Tribune. This week’s Political Roundup from Multimedia Reporter Alana Rocha looks at the Texas House’s all-nighter spent debating their budget bill. Plus, a look at the early stages of Senator Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign.

KLRU News Briefs air locally during PBS NewsHour Weekend, every Saturday and Sunday evening at 6:30pm. Our Saturday story is part of KLRU’s American Graduate initiative, which is aimed at increasing awareness around the dropout crisis in Central Texas. Lydia De La Garza, who is featured in the piece, is a member of our American Graduate Advisory Group.

Do you have an American Graduate story idea? We’d love to hear from you! Email us at CivicSummit@klru.org, post a comment, or tweet at us using #amgradtx. 


KLRU News Briefs: EdTech in Spotlight at SXSWedu, Senate and House Pass Key Bills

SXSWedu is turned 5 this year, and at this year’s conference everyone was buzzing about education technology. One session, hosted by EdTech Action Founder and CEO Scott Lipton and Manor ISD Chief Academic Officer Debbie Hester, brought together educators, developers, and people from education businesses, to figure out how to put more “ed” into EdTech. We take you inside the room on Saturday during PBS NewsHour Weekend – and in the video above.

Hester told us Manor ISD is proud to have a 1:1 student-to-iPad ratio in its schools. But, she said, there are different levels of implementation depending on the class and the teacher, which is something she’d like to see improved upon.

“There are sometimes things that are purchased for teachers and then we’re saying ‘Here you go, go and implement it.’ And if we don’t give the professional development, the opportunities to be able to say this is how it’s going to impact your [teaching] then there is a little bit of frustration,” Hester said. “That’s why today was so important to me because I learned ways to break down those barriers.”

Lipton’s group hosts the third largest EdTech meetup in the world here in Austin. The session at SXSWedu allowed more networking among people from across the country.

“There is no good technology without good implementation and good teachers,” Lipton said. “The outcome of this is for everyone to stop talking and take action around it. We all made commitments to take these things out into the world, to stay in touch with each other, and try to make some of these things happen.”

Our Sunday story comes from our partners at The Texas Tribune. In their weekly political Roundup, Multimedia Reporter Alana Rocha looks back at key measures which passed in the Senate and in the House this week – including a “Campus Carry” bill and a border security measure. You can find that story here.

 KLRU News Briefs air locally during PBS NewsHour Weekend, Saturday and Sunday evenings at 6:30. 


News Briefs: Enrollment opens for UT informal classes, 84th Legislature convenes

Since 1971 The University of Texas at Austin has offered evening, non-credit, classes to the public. The Informal Classes Program offers something for everyone, from the Beginner’s Guide to Novel Writing to Jiu-Jitsu or Swing Dance. Many of the classes are taught by UT professors, or members of the public can submit course proposals. Our Saturday story during PBS NewsHour Weekend goes inside their Spring Preview Night. You can see it online in the video above.

Our Sunday story comes from our partners at The Texas Tribune. The Weekly Political Roundup, from Multimedia Reporter Alana Rocha, is a rundown of news from the opening week of the 84th Legislative Session. You can watch it in the video below.

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

News Briefs: First 10-1 election is history, & Volunteers send books to Texas inmates

KLRU News Briefs

On Saturday during PBS NewsHour, we have a rundown of Austin’s new 10-1 City Council. Most of the council races, plus the race for Austin Mayor, were forced to runoffs. Tuesday night was election night. The final makeup of the council will be:

Mayor: Steve Adler
District 1Ora Houston
District 2Delia Garza
District 3: Sabino “Pio” Renteria
District 4Greg Casar
District 5Ann Kitchen
District 6Don Zimmerman
District 7Leslie Pool
District 8: Ellen Troxclair
District 9: Kathie Tovo
District 10Sherri Gallo

Our Sunday story is about the Inside Books Project. Volunteers for Inside Books read letters from Texas inmates, in which the prisoners request certain books to be sent to them. Volunteers send the books back, along with a handwritten letter. There are more than 140,000 people incarcerated in Texas. You can watch that story in the video below.

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


American Graduate: TX Veterans Commission Kicks Off ‘Drop Your Rucksack, Grab a Backpack’ Campaign

Sunday during PBS NewsHour, KLRU’s News Brief is part of American Graduate, a focus on the Central Texas dropout crisis. This week we spoke to the Texas Veterans Commission about their new campaign “Drop Your Rucksack, Grab a Backpack,” which launches on Veteran’s Day. It is aimed at encouraging Texas veterans to use the education benefits available to them.

“Sometimes veterans coming out of the service feel like they don’t have time to go back to school and get an education but fortunately the military has set up the post 9/11 G.I. Bill that pays for their college education and gives them a stipend on top of that,” Bonnie Fletcher, Education Specialist at the Texas Veterans Commission said. “The State of Texas also has a state benefit, the Hazelwood Act. We offer up to a 150 credit hours of tuition paid at any public school in Texas. These are benefits that you’ve earned and they’re there for you to utilize.”

We spoke to Dan Hamilton, a Junior at the University of Texas, who served in the Marine Corps after high school and deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. You can hear more about his story, and about the program, in the video above.

KLRU News Briefs air locally during PBS NewsHour Weekend, Saturday and Sunday at 6:30pm. Do you have an American Graduate story idea? We’d love to hear from you. Email us at CivicSummit@klru.org, post a comment, or tweet at us using #amgradtx. 

KLRU News Briefs: Inside Esquina Tango and Thinkery Offers Bilingual Storytime


On Saturday evening KLRU’s local news story during PBS NewsHour is an excerpt from Arts in Context Shorts’ With Panache, a look inside Esquina Tango in East Austin. Teachers Mickey Jacobs and Orazzio Loayza say tango is great for all people, regardless of fitness level.

“I think it’s important of people of all ages to be able to enjoy dance. We believe in health and well-being and dance offers that,” Jacobs said.

“We have people in their 40s, 50s, 60s. It’s good for their health because you’re not running, you’re walking and what is a better exercise than just walking,” Loayza said.

Some classes at the non-profit dance studio are free, some are donation only, and some cost between $12-$15 per class.

On Sunday our story is about The Thinkery’s Bilingual Storytime program. Storytime happens on Community Nights, twice per week, when the museum stays open late and the entrance fee is based upon a donation of any size.

Every Wednesday evening, children’s books are read in English and Spanish by volunteer bilingual students from the University of Texas. Museum staff say the premise came from a desire to bring different cultures together while fostering early literacy.

“The majority of the families are Spanish speaking, or just monolingual and just want their kid to learn Spanish. And to bring those two different communities together in one bilingual storytime is very important,” Sasha Ellington, The Thinkery’s Floor Supervisor said.

On Sunday evenings they offer bilingual storytime with English and American Sign Language.

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



KLRU NewsBrief: Huston-Tillotson Launches First Master’s Program

HT Masters

This weekend during PBS NewsHour, Austin’s oldest university is beginning a new chapter in its 140 year history.

Huston-Tillotson University will launch its first ever Master’s program in January. The degree is a Master’s in Educational Leadership with a principal certification. Principals in Texas are required to have Master’s degrees but most program offer the certification separately. Dr. Ruth Kane, Department of Educator Preparation Department Chair, said the program prepares graduates to fill a void in school administrations in our region.

“Research says that it’s important that students have a person who is their teacher or administrator or their counselor or even their librarian that looks like them, who they have an easier time relating to,” Dr. Kane said. “We have many wonderful Anglo principals out there but they can’t be everything to African-American and Hispanic students.”

Corey Wiggins, a 6th grade English Language Arts teacher at Kealing Middle School, is hoping to join the program in January. He’s been teaching for three years and said he does think students would benefit from more African-American or Hispanic principals in area schools.

“I think that just having that awareness of knowing how certain things work in certain families based on socioeconomic background and things like that, it really makes a really big impact,” Wiggins said.

The program is four semesters and is designed for working teachers.

This story airs Sunday evening at 6:30pm during PBS NewsHour Weekend. 



KLRU NewsBriefs: Drought impacts state’s freshwater supply

Matagorda Screenshot

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


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.