Covering poverty and education – On a shoestring
“State voucher debate renewed in Legislature”
– by Jessica Jordan, education reporter for The Times of Gainesville, Ga. – 2009
What’s the story: A state legislator introduces a bill to give private school vouchers to public schools, which many public educators oppose because it’ll take funding from public schools where the money is needed.
Why it works: Jordan breaks the different aspects of the arguments down into subheads and segments, helping to explain all parts of the problem to readers who need it – especially parents.
How to do it: Localize state legislative bills by evaluating the effects on local schools. Pull in data about local SPLOST revenues and interview superintendents, teachers and parents who may or may not take advantage of the voucher.
Terms to know: Free lunch program, school vouchers, special tax revenues for education, standardized testing requirements in public vs. private schools, No Child Left Behind Act
Questions to ask:
How many students receive free and reduce lunch prices in the year?
Which schools don’t meet annual yearly progress (AYP) reports? Does poverty affect this?
How would a switch to this program break down funding for public schools? Does it affect SPLOST or other taxes?
What types of students would take advantage of the private school voucher?
How would this type of legislation specifically affect schools in the community?
Sources: Educational magazines, non-profit educational advocacy groups, teachers and parents in the school system, principals and superintendents, Professional Association of Georgia Educators and Georgia Public Policy Foundation (or other similar state groups)
Advice from Jordan:
“In Gainesville City Schools, if I didn’t write about poverty, I wouldn’t be writing about 70 percent of the kids who get free lunches, which means they fall below poverty line.”
“I tend to put explanation in my stories. Many times, I was reporting it and didn’t understand it fully to begin with, and I don’t think it’s bad to put in the details. If I didn’t understand, then a majority of my readers may not either. For examples, with the voucher debate, the school of thought is that if the student is not getting education here, why be limited to that schools? But the other side is if the government is going to spend money on these kids regardless of public or private schools, why not spend more in the public school system so that whole tide will rise? In this country, education is the way to lift yourself out of poverty.”