Hello readers. I’m Jennifer Palmer, Oklahoma Watch’s education reporter. Reflecting on 2019, I realize I’ve spent the bulk of the year focusing on a single education story — virtual schools. Believe me, I know how lucky I am.
Time to really dig into a story is a luxury I never really got working for a newspaper.
But Oklahoma Watch is different. We take seriously our role as a watchdog, holding those in power accountable and revealing how our state makes use of your tax dollars.
Reporting on virtual schools has taken me to Panola, a community in far southeastern Oklahoma where the school, which had fallen into dire financial straits, was “saved” by a for-profit charter management company.
In another story, we revealed a troubling trend at the state’s largest virtual school: teachers feeling pressured or encouraged to manipulate student enrollment to improve the school’s academic performance. In the days after publication, a years-long law enforcement investigation into the school’s founders ramped up.
I’ve talked to dozens of parents, students, teachers and community members about the impact of virtual schools. I’ve pored over data. I’ve pursued stories with immediate impact, and others that were dead ends. All of this took time.
I’m passionate about this work and think it’s important. Please consider becoming a supporter of Oklahoma Watch so that reporters like me can continue making a difference.