Articles for Garrett Looker

Jun 6

2024

Charters outperform urban public schools in reading

The reading skills of young students who attend charter schools in and around Buffalo are slightly better than those attending urban public schools, an Investigative Post analysis has found. The results of 2023’s testing showed 30 percent of third through fifth grade students at the 19 charter schools tested in Erie and Niagara counties could read and write at or above grade level, according to the New York State Education Department.  That compares with 25 percent of students in the same grades in Buffalo public schools. “There’s more we want to achieve for our kids, clearly,” said Fatimah Barker, executive[...]

Posted 3 weeks ago

Jun 5

2024

Erie County making headway on foster care

Illustration by Christine Ongjoco. This story is being co-published with The Imprint, a national nonprofit news outlet covering child welfare and youth justice. Where Kin Come First: The Imprint’s first-ever analysis of how often New York counties place foster children with relatives found huge gaps across county lines. This story reveals how counties that prioritize kin are keeping children within family networks. Part two of a two-part series. Read part one here.   In 2018, when her young nephew was found wandering outside alone, Krystal Henderson got a call from the Chemung County social services agency. Would she and her husband[...]

Posted 3 weeks ago

Jun 4

2024

Falling short on foster care

Illustration by Christine Ongjoco.  This story is being co-published with The Imprint, a national nonprofit news outlet covering child welfare and youth justice. Where Kin Come First: The Imprint’s analysis of New York child welfare agencies’ reliance on family and friends reveals where children end up depends a lot on geography. Part one of a two-part series. Six years ago, the federal government made a dramatic shift in the way it funds foster care. Instead of only paying states after they removed children from parents accused of abuse or neglect, local authorities could be reimbursed to avoid family separation through[...]

Posted 3 weeks ago

May 21

2024

Censoring the news in New York prisons

DOCCS banned entire issues of publications from New York magazine to Prison Legal News. | Maia Hibbett Editor’s note: This story is republished from New York Focus. Subscribe to their newsletter here. IN 2016, D’UONE MORRISON wanted to read about racial bias in New York’s prison system. Former Governor Andrew Cuomo had ordered an investigation into the topic, and Morrison, a Black man incarcerated in New York, asked a friend to mail him a news article about it. But the prison’s media review committee blocked the article, Morrison told New York Focus, citing its potential to disrupt order and threaten security.[...]

Posted 1 month ago

Apr 26

2024

School districts succeeding at reading

A third grade student raises a hand during Karen Shedrick’s lesson at Cuba-Rushford Elementary. Photo by Garrett Looker This is the second in a series on literacy in Western New York public schools. The first installment can be found here. Young children scramble around a gymnasium at Cleveland-Hill Elementary School on a recent night, gazing over tables lined with piles of books — all free for them to take home. Laia, who’s in the second grade, filled a bag full of new titles, books slightly above her current reading level, “so she can advance and be ahead of the curve[...]

Posted 2 months ago

Apr 25

2024

Reading scores lag across WNY

Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part series. Our second story is here.  It’s not just Buffalo where students are struggling to read and write. Only 39 percent of third through fifth graders in Western New York’s 99 school districts scored at grade level on recent English Language Arts tests. What’s more, 31 percent of students lack even basic reading and writing skills. In some districts, including Buffalo and Niagara Falls, that figure approaches or exceeds 50 percent. The problems extend from the city to the countryside, urban neighborhoods to suburban cul de sacs, according to an Investigative[...]

Posted 2 months ago

Apr 5

2024

New York’s Guardianship System Is Broken. Will Lawmakers Pay for a Modest Fix?

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul Credit: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images. Courtesy of ProPublica. As New York lawmakers hammer out a more than $200 billion budget this week, they may include $5 million to improve the state’s troubled guardianship system, which oversees the physical and financial welfare of tens of thousands of New Yorkers who the courts have said cannot care for themselves. The modest allotment, which was advanced by the state Senate, would continue to fund a statewide hotline that launched last June and has advised hundreds of people considering guardianship for their relatives or friends. And it would give new[...]

Posted 3 months ago

Apr 4

2024

After Scolding by Regulator, National Fuel Renews Campaign Against Gas Transition

Regulators concluded that National Fuel had in fact committed some customer funds to lobbying — a practice that is illegal — but that it did so by accident and quickly corrected the errors when notified by the department. Photo courtesy of New York Focus. After New York Focus revealed last year that National Fuel customers’ gas bills may have been funding a lobbying campaign against banning gas, the state utility regulator launched an investigation into the company, which supplies gas to roughly 500,000 households in western New York. In February, the Department of Public Service, or DPS, published its findings. Regulators[...]

Posted 3 months ago
Investigative Post

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