Shortchanging Our Schools

A quarter-century after statewide education reform, some Kentucky communities and their elected officials — school boards, sheriffs, property valuation administrators and county attorneys — weren’t doing all they could to fund local schools, a Herald-Leader investigation found in February 2015.

Darrell Watts, facilities director at Breathitt County Schools, at the old swimming pool at Sebastian Middle School. The only public pool in the area is no longer in use and has been drained, but it holds rainwater that comes in through the leaky roof. Photo by Charles Bertram | Staff

Darrell Watts, facilities director at Breathitt County Schools, at the old swimming pool at Sebastian Middle School. The only public pool in the area is no longer in use and has been drained, but it holds rainwater that comes in through the leaky roof. Photo by Charles Bertram | Staff

The three-part series utilized a new digital storytelling tool within McClatchy, allowing the newspaper to present photos, interactive graphics, videos and databases at the appropriate places within the story.

The series began having an impact even before it was published. For example, Kentucky Fuel Corp., a company owned by West Virginia billionaire Jim Justice, started paying delinquent tax bills worth hundreds of thousands of dollars after the newspaper began asking questions. In Leslie County, local officials began an unprecedented effort to collect delinquent taxes following inquiries from the Herald-Leader.

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