KBOO, a community radio station in Portland, Oregon, has just completed a months long project investigating the American Legislative Exchange Council's effect on members of the state legislature. The project, made possible by a grant from the Fund for Investigative Journalism, contains pieces from volunteer reporters about aspects of ALEC's lobbying efforts, interactive maps and spreadsheets detailing legislator involvement in ALEC sponsored model legislation and links to ALEC and organizations that watchdog ALEC. KBOO intends the work to be a model other community stations in other states might use as a starting point for investigating their own legislatures.
Building on the work with CPS Apples to Apples, I joined forces with Chicago's Open Data Institute to help shine a light on the real data around Chicago Public Schools anticipated historically large number of school closings. The data is being used by parents and community groups to ask targeted, educated questions about the schools on the closing and receiving lists, and to educate parents about how District policy affects their local school's staffing, class sizes, etc. Some of the data being visualized exists in disconnected sites, some of it has had to be "liberated" from PDF's in order to be used. The team is hoping to extend its work at some point into a project called SchoolCircles, a site that will help public school parents in Chicago (and with code that can be repurposed for other districts) understand the data that affects their schools (budgets, staffing, student performance and mobility, utilization) more completely, as well as quickly run "what if" scenarios for how proposed changes to district policy would affect their specific school.
Robust data on individual CPS (Chicago Public Schools) schools is often difficult to locate and almost impossible to compare between schools. Although this data is used to make important decisions at the student family level (what school to apply to?) and the district level (which schools to close?), there are few resources that allow open government groups to easily access and use the data in formats that would allow them to educate the public and increase transparency and understanding. So I decided to tackle some of it, unpaid and on my own time as a CPS parent, in a project that I'm calling "Apples to Apples." I get the data out of PDFs and up into Google Fusion. And open gov groups, parents and journalists get to use it.