This week, we published the first investigative reporting collaboration in our Reveal Local Labs initiative. The Cost of Choice, which examines whether Louisiana’s school voucher program is living up to its promises, is the product of a deep collaboration among WVUE FOX8, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune, WWNO New Orleans Public Radio and Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting.

The $40-million-a-year Louisiana Scholarship Program, expanded in 2012, was one of the most sweeping school choice programs in the country. Advocates said it would free countless low-income kids from the worst public schools by allowing them to use state tax dollars in the form of vouchers to pay tuition at private schools, where they’d get a better education.

But our investigation shows the nearly 6,900 students who’ve left public schools have instead been placed into a system with numerous failing private schools that receive little oversight. Two-thirds of all students in the voucher system attended schools where they performed at a D or F level last school year.

  • Watch the series on FOX8
  • Read the series on NOLA.com
  • Listen to the series on WWNO

We launched Reveal Local Labs last year to provide support to local news outlets on collaborative investigative projects, at a time when deep reporting has faced major threats on a local level. We provide data, training, engagement and editorial support to help create lasting collaborations in communities across the country.

“The Louisiana voucher program was hailed as a national exemplar when it was announced,” said Reveal Editor in Chief Matt Thompson. “This collaboration with our partners in New Orleans has unearthed deficiencies in the program that every community can learn from. It’s a vital demonstration of what’s possible when newsrooms join forces in the public interest.”

“We’ve uncovered some serious questions with the Louisiana voucher program that the public needs to know,” said WVUE-TV News Director Mikel Schaefer. “We are very proud of the partnership and the impactful journalism it has produced with our Cost of Choice series.”

“WWNO is proud to be part of this important collaborative, leveraging reporting expertise from FOX8 and NOLA.com to uncover flaws in a program that was supposed to help some of the state’s most vulnerable children and families,” said Tegan Wendland, WWNO editor and reporter.

“This is the kind of collaborative and hard-hitting journalism that we expected from such a creative partnership with WVUE Fox 8, WWNO and Reveal,” said Manuel Torres, senior news editor at NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune. “Our communities benefit when reporters join forces to hold government accountable.”

For more information, visit revealnews.org/local/labs.