October 20, 2017
If you haven’t read about the Sentinel’s groundbreaking investigative project on school vouchers on the front of our website, stop reading this column now and go read it.
Seriously. I’ll wait.
That is what real journalism looks like — a team of journalists doing shoe-leather reporting, conducting the kind of inspections, investigations and interviews that even the state’s education officials don’t.
The “Schools without Rules” series exposed scores of problems at these publicly funded schools — everything from forged safety reports to a school run by a pastor accused of lewd or lascivious molestation.
Just as importantly, it exposed a wicked hypocrisy among politicians who scream for “accountability” for public schools but let anything go when your tax dollars are whisked away to private ones.
This little-regulated system needs an overhaul. And the world needs more real journalists.
Among the findings from reporters Beth Kassab, Leslie Postal and Annie Martin:
- Teachers without certification or even college degrees.
- Forged documents: Schools faked up clean bills of health from fire departments, which had found safety problems. Even after the schools were caught, state officials let them remain open.
- Shady hirings: Two teachers worked at voucher schools (the state calls them “scholarship” schools) after being fired from public schools for having porn on their school computers.
- Alleged crime: At one school for special-needs kids, suspicions of impropriety — among parents and even a teacher — continued until authorities arrested the school owner, accusing her of stealing more than $4 million in Medicaid funds.
- Troubling finances and learning environments: Two school were evicted from their locations for nonpayment of rent while the school year was still going on. Another shared office-suite space with a bail bondsman.
The examples went on and on.
There were gobs of problems exposed, many by reporters asking questions that others weren’t.
Critics of the series — including those in the voucher-school machine that continuously wants to expand — took potshots at the Sentinel’s investigatory team for not being comprehensive.
Well, let me tell you something: These three women visited more than 30 schools in six months – that’s more than education officials in this state did in all of last year.
In 2016, education officials inspected only 22 out of nearly 2,000 of the private schools funded with tax dollars and corporate-tax credits.
So, if our team was lame for visiting more than 30 schools in our local community, how ridiculously negligent are state regulators for visiting only 22 statewide?
State officials aren’t looking for problems for a simple reason: They don’t want to find them. [READ MORE]