Charter Schools: Making The Grade?

The story of how brick-and-mortar charters emerged in Centre County involves several Penn State Ph.D.s, a half dozen legal appeals, and a retired Army Ranger who wanted to return a favor to his wife.

This six-part series explored the impact of those charter schools, both on the quality of education and the cost.

Ed Mahon spent four months reporting on the story and  interviewed more than 60 people, including lawmakers, education experts, parents, students, and teachers from both charter schools and traditional public schools.

He visited classrooms and conducted analyses of state data to determine how Centre County’s charter school population compares to that of other counties.

The Swap

In April 2006, State College Area school board members wanted to renovate and expand their high school. To pay for construction, they entered into a complex financial contract, known as an interest rate swap, with the Royal Bank of Canada.

But board members later canceled the project, and the deal proved risker than they anticipated. Now, taxpayers could lose more than $10 million.

These articles won multiple awards: first place for investigative reporting from the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association; second place for investigative reporting from the Pennsylvania Associated Press Managing Editors; first place for ongoing coverage from the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania, as well as the Ray Sprigle award, a “best of show” honor.

Back to School-Back to Work

A five-part series, profiling unemployed workers who decided to switch careers. These articles were honored by the Pennsylvania Associated Press Managing Editors with a second place award for enterprise reporting.

Priced Out: High Rents Drive Housing Crisis

Centre County has the lowest rate of affordable housing in Pennsylvania, according to a March 2010 report by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. Five Centre Daily Times spent several months reporting to show the people and policies behind that statistic.

These articles won the 2011 Media Award from the National Low-Income Housing Coalition. And they were a finalist in the enterprise/investigative reporting category of the Golden Quill Awards, sponsored by Press Club of Western Pennsylvania. (Winners will be announced May 9, 2011.)

Tracking the Stimulus

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 sent millions of dollars to Centre County schools. Lawmakers had two main goals: save jobs and improve education.

On the first and second anniversaries of the stimulus becoming law, these articles examined how school’s spent the money and whether or not the law met its goals. The 2010 series won first place in the investigative reporting category at both the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association 2011 Keystone Press Awards and in the Pennsylvania Associated Press Managing Editors 2011 News Excellence Competition.


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