Hunt Valley-based broadcaster and media company Sinclair Broadcast Group on Friday announced that its Project Baltimore, the investigative reporting unit of WBFF/Fox 45 News, was named a finalist for the 2023 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award.
Project Baltimore’s reporting exposed a massive scheme to inflate enrollment in Baltimore schools and promote students who did not meet requirements.
In naming Project Baltimore a finalist, Columbia University said the series “uncovered numbing neglect and corruption in the Baltimore Public School system, including an examination of ‘ghost students,’ absent but still on school rolls, and costing taxpayers millions.”
Founded in 1942, Columbia Journalism School’s duPont-Columbia Awards honors winners annually, informing the public about those journalists’ contributions and supporting journalism education and innovation.
In a year-long investigation, Project Baltimore shed light on the failures of the education system that have impacted generations of students, while providing the impetus for lawmakers and community members to finally make it right.
The investigation was prompted when Baltimore mother Tiffany France came forward with stunning information about her son’s education. In four years at Baltimore high school Augusta Fells Savage Institute of Visual Arts (AFSIVA), he passed just three classes, yet the school was still promoting him through the course levels with a grade point average of only 0.13. Project Baltimore’s investigation uncovered he was one of many failing students passing through the school.
Additionally, Project Baltimore discovered state taxpayers paid nearly $93 million in a single year to educate 6,126 students across the state whose whereabouts were unknown.
As a result of the investigation, the Maryland State Department of Education announced Baltimore schools may have to pay back as much as $1.6 million that it received in 2019 to educate students who were not in school at AFSIVA. Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot has called for the state to change how it funds public schools.
Since its creation in 2017, Project Baltimore’s investigative work has been recognized with dozens of honors, including four first place National Headliner Awards, the SPJ Sigma Delta Chi Award, a National Press Photographers Association First Place award, and three prestigious IRE Awards. Additionally, Project Baltimore has won 27 Regional Emmy Awards, six Regional Edward R. Murrow Awards and seven Associated Press Awards.
The winners of the 2023 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards will be announced early next year.