2022 Collaborations (All Newsroom Sizes) Winners

Mike Reicher, Lulu Ramadan & Taylor Blatchford, The Seattle Times & ProPublica

About the Winners:

On the fringes of Washington state’s special education system is a network of privately run schools. Through an exhaustive investigation, The Seattle Times and ProPublica found that the largest chain of these private schools, Northwest School of Innovative Learning, has been the target of years of complaints from parents, school districts and their own staff, alleging abuse and overuse of seclusion and restraint of students, scant academics, understaffing and billing school districts for services that weren’t provided.

Many complaints flowed to the state’s top education officials, but the state rubber-stamped their annual renewals year after year.

Immediately after The Times and ProPublica published the first two stories in the series, the state education superintendent proposed legislative reforms to improve oversight and complaint investigations, tighten standards and require transparency. Disability rights advocates and lawmakers lauded the coverage and pledged to help push through legislation when the session begins in January.

Comments From the Judges:

“Excellent, potent, well-documented investigation by Propublica in collaboration with the Seattle Times and Ed Lab into a network of privately run ‘warehouses’ for the severely disabled in Washington State. Their findings were devastating — not the least of which is that transparency and accountable data is at next to zero for these kids. The storytelling power provided by the interviews with parents and kids, and the videos of former teachers are powerful. The larger context is clear — this network is part of a trend to privatize services for the hard-to-educate. The state’s most vulnerable children. It’s a classic example of dogged reporting uncovering a network of wrong, and pointing to the policy solutions. Well done.”

“Outstanding work exhibiting the kind of public-service, watchdog work that’s possible when a national investigative news organization partners with a deeply-sourced local outlet. The reporting is outstanding, with a powerful blend of harrowing descriptions, on-point data and context. The quick response from legislators shows the impact of this reporting in the state of Washington.”