Florida Reporters Use CAR Skills to Show That Charter Schools Pay More for Administrative Costs Than Actual Student Instruction
Reporters for The Orlando Sentinel used audit records from Florida's charter schools to show that "management fees and other overhead costs are shortchanging students and bleeding the finances of Orlando-area charter schools."
Kudos to Vicki McClure and Tania deLuzuriaga for investigating and analyzing the audit documents of Florida's nearly 300 charter schools themselves, rather than waiting and reporting on state auditors' analysis and report, which is supposed to be presented to the Florida legislature later in the month.
My only criticism of this story is that it didn't include a "nerd box" detailing how the reporters went about analyzing the data, so I don't know how many records they looked at or what format the data was in or how they checked the records for dirty data or anything like that. Nerd boxes are critical for student journalists like myself who read the work of professionals and wonder, "How'd they do that?"
Still, if I get chosen for The Oregonian's spring internship program (God I hope so) and want to follow the Sentinel's lead, I think I could figure out how to tackle this story. Oregon charter schools are subject to public records laws and audit laws so I should be able to access the same type of information that McClure and deLuzuriaga looked at, and since Oregon only has 56 charter schools, I'll have a more manageable set of data to examine as well.