A crack investigative team at the Arizona Republic won the prestigious George Polk Award for their fearless expose of charter school corruption in the state.

Now we might wonder where are the think tanks like the Center for American Progress and the Brookings Institution, which never utter a critical word about charter school corruption and malfeasance. CAP and Brookings are supposedly “liberal” think tanks, but for some reason they are unwilling and unable to say anything about the scams in charter world. My guess is that they are still protecting Obama’s education legacy, unwilling to admit that they are also protecting George W. Bush’s education legacy, which was identical.

Through their investigative work, reporters Craig Harris, Anne Ryman, Alden Woods and Justin Price revealed how Arizona’s school funding system and permissive legal structure allow charter-school operators to make huge profits off public education dollars. The team, led by investigative editor Michael Squires, published the five-part series “The Charter Gamble,” which examined how Arizona committed 25 years ago to the then-untested concept of charter schools and what the program has meant for the state.

The George Polk Awards in Journalism were established in 1949 by Long Island University to commemorate CBS correspondent George Polk, who was murdered while covering the Greek civil war, and are presented annually to honor special achievement in journalism, especially investigative and enterprising reporting that gains attention and achieves results. The Republic’s team was recognized at the 70th annual Polk Awards announcement ceremony for “initially disclosing insider deals, no-bid contracts and political chicanery that provided windfall profits for investors in a number of prominent Arizona charter schools, often at the expense of underfunded public schools.” 

Greg Burton, executive editor of The Republic and azcentral.com, said the reporting team “unspooled miles of red tape to reveal what had been hidden during a decades-long push to funnel public money to privately run public charter schools — oftentimes with noble intent. But, where regulators and politicians fail as watchdogs, local reporters are vital. In this case, politicians and businessmen who could have pushed for reform made millions by ignoring warning signs. This is where Republic reporters worked to protect the public’s trust.”

In response to the reporting by the Arizona Republic, the legislature is considering charter reforms but none of those reforms will affect the worst abusers, some of whom are members of the legislature.