Stories

The IRE Resource Center is a major research library containing more than 27,000 investigative stories.

Most of our stories are not available for download but can be easily ordered by contacting the Resource Center directly at 573-882-3364 or [email protected] where a researcher can help you pinpoint what you need.

Search results for "public schools" ...

  • The Rise and Fall of a Patrón

    Our investigation showed how powerful political alliances helped United Neighborhood Organization (UNO) grow from a community group into a multimillion-dollar enterprise operating 16 taxpayer-funded charter schools, a janitorial firm and other businesses. We found a lack of oversight of charter school finances and operations cleared the way for alleged abuse. Specifically: UNO received more than $280 million in public money over the past five years but neither Chicago Public Schools nor the Illinois State Board of Education closely monitored how funds were spent. A large portion of the public money UNO collects goes to management fees, debt service and consultants rather than classrooms.
  • Exhausted at School

    Gaze out the windows of John Marshall Junior High in Seattle and you will see cars and trucks whizzing by on the busiest freeway in the state, Interstate 5. John Marshall is one of 28 public schools and more than 125 day cares that InvestigateWest has found built within 500 feet of Washington’s highest-traffic roadways. That’s close enough to put children’s health at risk, say health researchers. For “Exhausted at School,” InvestigateWest combined data from multiple state agencies and pored over dozens of academic studies to understand the threat of toxic pollution and its effect on kids’ health at school. Our reporting immediately spurred Seattle Schools officials to action: they added a new policy to issue air quality alerts to principals, and announced plans to upgrade a decades-old ventilation system at John Marshall. Officials in Olympia and Washington, D.C., considered and then rejected the notion of banning or severely restricting construction of schools inside the pollution plume, according to interviews and records obtained by InvestigateWest. Meanwhile, state officials do not enforce rules requiring day cares to be built on environmentally safe sites. So schools and day cares continue to be built in the danger zone around freeways, and children pay the price – years after the dangers were conclusively proven. “Exhausted at School” is a collaboration between InvestigateWest and KING 5 Television.
  • Private Schools

    More than 180 privately run schools in New Jersey promise to take on the severely disabled children that public schools can’t handle, giving them a special status in the Garden State's educational system. But these schools are also a $600 million industry funded by New Jersey taxpayers – an industry that is only loosely regulated by the state. After a two-month investigation, Star-Ledger reporter Christopher Baxter exposed what can happen when the state writes checks to private companies without closely watching what they do with the money. His reporting was a relentless indictment of the system, finding the private schools were able to spend taxpayer dollars in ways public schools could not. He uncovered nepotism among school staffs, executive pay far higher than public school superintendents, officials owning fancy cars, schools offering generous pension plans and questionable business deals between schools and companies owned by school officials. In one instance, Baxter discovered a classroom aide who was related one of the school’s directors was taking home a $94,000 salary – three times what others were paid – without even a bachelor’s degree.
  • Texas Schools/Racial Divisions

    This was a 6-part series reported and written by students at The University of Texas at Austin and published in The Dallas Morning News (in print and online) and in Reporting Texas (an online news site at The University of Texas at Austin). The series examined the "resegregation" of public schools -- and how little had changed in public schools since the Brown v. Board of Education ruling in the 1950s ordering the end of segregated classrooms. The groundbreaking work involved deep dives into data, pressing public officials for accountability, exploring the inequities in the public education system.
  • Tracking Your Tax Dollars: Delinquent Property Taxes

    Oklahoma is ranked 49th in the country when it comes to funding education. Property taxes make up at least a quarter of a school district's entire budget. We started investigating and discovered Tulsa County alone was owed $10 million in delinquent property taxes. Further investigation uncovered that the entity that owed the most in delinquent property taxes was the state of Oklahoma. It owed $2 million just to Tulsa County. Here's why: Basically, to entice a manufacturing company to come to Oklahoma, the state offers tax incentives. The state tells manufacturer X we'll pay your property taxes, if you come here. The state has made the promise to hundreds of businesses. However, the state can't afford to pay the taxes that it has promised to pay to 56 different counties in Oklahoma. The state was behind on paying the counties the manufacturers' property taxes. The state owed a total of $26 million to counties across the state, which affects hundreds of school districts. Meanwhile, students are crammed into overcrowded classrooms because districts don't have enough money to hire more teachers. We found of the property taxes owed, the portion that would go to Tulsa Public Schools, would be enough to hire 200 additional teachers. We took our findings to state Senator Sean Burrage. He not only said the state needs to pay its property taxes, but he is writing legislation to mandate the state pay up. The legislation is to ensure that there is enough money in the state's fund to pay for the manufacturers property taxes. Burrage has also talked to senate leadership about his concerns and is working to gain support from fellow lawmakers. The legislative session starts in early February, that's when he will officially file his bill.
  • Empty-desk epidemic

    A groundbreaking examination of internal Chicago Public Schools records exposed a grievous injustice and sparked two new state laws and a powerful push for reform. Nearly 32,000 of the city's K-8 grade students — or roughly 1 in 8 —miss a month or more of class per year, while some youngsters vanish from the attendance rolls for years at a stretch, the newspaper's investigation of protected student-level data found. Chicago officials were publishing upbeat statistics that masked the devastating pattern of absenteeism -- even as the missed days robbed youth of their futures and cost taxpayers millions in funding keyed to attendance. The flood of missed days disproportionately impact impoverished African-American youngsters as well as children with disabilities. The journalism drew heavily on social science research methods. In one of many examples, the lead reporter became a Nieman fellow, qualified as a Harvard University researcher on human subjects, then worked through Harvard's Institutional Review Board to obtain and analyze Chicago's attendance database under a contract he crafted between Harvard and the Chicago Public Schools. Based on that research, the reporters subsequently found a way to obtain crucial parts of the data through public records requests.
  • An 'F' For Fire Inspections

    An 'F' For Fire Inspections is a series of investigative reports aired on NBC 10 in November 2012. Our investigation revealed Providence public schools went years without any fire inspections, needlessly putting both children and adults at risk. We further revealed the broken fire inspection system within Rhode Island's capital city.
  • Cheating Our Children

    After using a sophisticated data analysis to expose anomalous gains on standardized tests in Atlanta Public Schools – anomalies that were shown in 2011 to signal cheating at 44 schools – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution set out in late 2011 to apply its analysis to school test scores nationwide. The resulting investigative series used ground-breaking data analysis and documents that were buried deep in education bureaucrats' files to show that cheating by educators was happening around the nation – clustered largely in urban districts that were under intense pressure to perform in the wake of the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act. The newspaper built a database no one had compiled since NCLB took effect: All standardized-test scores, spanning as many years as available, for 69,000 U.S. elementary and middle schools.
  • Cheated: Why Lakewood's public schools have failed and how we can fix them

    An investigation into the financial, educational and moral corruption of the Lakewood, NJ, School District, which resulted in significant changes in leadership and government probes of its finances.
  • KSHB: Questionable Contracts

    A 41 Action News investigation scrutinized the bidding process for a $32 million energy project with Kansas City Public Schools. The investigation revealed that a businessman who acted an unpaid adviser early in the process eventually founded his own company and won the lucrative contract. The reporting lead to a resignation by a high-ranking district leader and a canceled contract. The ongoing investigation later examined other contracts and discovered a district facilities manager had helped award millions of dollars of work to a company with whom he had a personal relationship. That part of the investigation showed the district did not have a conflict of interest policy in place for district employees.