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Top 10 Education Stories

Mack Brown, Meria Carstarphen, and the rest of the gang

By Richard Whittaker, Fri., Jan. 3, 2014

AISD Board
AISD Board
Photo by John Anderson

1) A Vote of No Confidence AISD voters handed Superintendent Meria Carstarphen an embarrassing defeat at the ballot box in May by rejecting two of the district's four bond initiatives. Now the question is, will voters back a long-delayed tax rollback election, tentatively planned for next November?

2) A New Future for Eastside Memor­ial After years under constant threat of closure, the Texas Education Agency, AISD, and the East Austin community came together to create a new plan for the campus, with the nationally acclaimed Johns Hopkins Talent Development Secondary coming in as a collaborative partner.

3) Back to the Courts The Texas public school finance system is unconstitutional. That was the preliminary ruling from Judge John Dietz in February, but the case is far from over. In June, Dietz said he'd reopen the hearings in January, to examine whether extra funding approved by lawmakers in the legislative session really changed anything.

4) A Vocation for Education There was a tectonic shakeup in education with the passage of House Bill 5, a major overhaul of graduation requirements that opens a more vocational track.

5) The New Segregationists In January, AISD trustees took the controversial vote to turn two middle school campuses – Pearce and Garcia – into single-sex academies, starting in the 2014-15 school year. Trustee Cheryl Bradley argued that the trials and tribulations of middle school are "easier if you're going to do that in a setting where everybody looks like you."

6) One Last Thumb in the Eye After the AISD Board of Trustees canceled its contract with IDEA Public Schools to run Allan Elementary as a charter school, the private group relocated in June – and took the Allan name and the bulldog mascot with them. Now the Allan neighborhood is discussing what should be on the campus, with a bilingual­ middle school leading the options.

7) The Dome and the Tower An armistice of sorts was declared in the ugly fight between UT President Bill Powers and some members of the UT System Board of Reg­ents on Dec. 12, when System President Francisco Cigarroa recommended that Powers be retained as president. Meanwhile, in a nearly unprecedented step, the Texas House of Representatives began impeachment hearings against Regent Wallace Hall, claiming that he abused his office.

8) ACC vs. the ACA Austin Community College was accused of taking the liberal out of liberal education when the administration proposed limiting adjunct staff hours so they would not have to provide them medical coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

9) Evolution Now, Evolution Forever After years of pandering to the religious right, in December the State Board of Educa­tion rejected calls from creationists to dump new science textbooks for having too much science in them. As the Texas Freedom Network joked, the SBOE gave evolution an opposable thumbs up.

10) Bye, Bye, Mack No more Mack Brown Mondays, as UT's highest-paid employee announced Dec. 14 that he will step down as football coach after the Alamo Bowl. His voluntary exit caused far more media hubbub than the ongoing layoffs among academic staff.

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