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Impact

Journalism in the Public Interest

Impact has been at the core of ProPublica’s mission since we launched in 2008, and that’s true for ProPublica Illinois, too. What we mean by impact is that our investigative journalism seeks to do more than expose wrongdoing and injustice; we hope to spark real-world change.

We’ve written a white paper on the topic, and examples of how ProPublica and ProPublica Illinois stories have produced such change — from the resignation of corrupt officials to the passage of new laws — are compiled in our annual reports. On this page, you’ll find stories that show the impact of our work in Illinois.

Featured Impact

At Hearing on Financial Aid Scandal, Lawmakers Grill Officials and Look to Close a Loophole

Illinois politicians considered denying admission to students whose families exploited the guardianship law to qualify for aid they wouldn’t otherwise receive, saying it was an “injustice.”

Illinois Lawmakers Demand Child Welfare Officials Better Serve Spanish-Speaking Families

State officials now say they want to increase bilingual hiring and the recruitment of Spanish-speaking foster families.

Illinois Lawmakers Are Calling for a Nationwide Ban on Isolated Timeouts of Students

Four states currently ban the practice of secluding students at school. Illinois lawmakers want Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to make it 50. “This shouldn’t be controversial,” said U.S. Rep. Sean Casten.

Tens of Thousands of People Lost Driver’s Licenses Over Unpaid Parking Tickets. Now, They’re Getting Them Back.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed legislation Friday to end license suspensions for unpaid parking tickets, affecting nearly 55,000 Illinois motorists. Lawmakers cited ProPublica Illinois and WBEZ Chicago reporting for leading to the new law.

Latest Stories

Illinois Will Start Sharing Data About COVID-19 Outbreaks in Schools

As educators and parents assess the risk of returning to the classroom, some felt frustrated by the lack of public data about COVID-19 in schools. After a ProPublica and Chicago Tribune investigation, the state will start publishing the data.

Grace, Black Teen Jailed for Not Doing Her Online Coursework, Is Released

Grace’s story, first published by ProPublica Illinois, prompted outrage and debate across the country. Though a judge refused to set the girl free, the Michigan Court of Appeals ordered her immediate release from a juvenile detention facility in Detroit.

COVID-19 Killed at Least 25 Residents of One Illinois Nursing Home. The Family of One Victim Has Filed a Lawsuit, Alleging Negligence.

The family of a Bria of Geneva resident who died from the coronavirus in April claims in the lawsuit that the nursing home failed to adequately test residents and staff, and didn’t isolate infected residents in time to protect others.

This Rural School District Has Been Asking for Wi-Fi for Years. Now It’s Finally Getting It.

An anonymous individual donated a dozen internet hotspots. A school district near Chicago is sending Chromebooks. And a superintendent in rural Illinois is stunned by the support to keep his students learning.

Illinois Quietly Reversed Its Ban on a Dangerous Physical Restraint for Students

After a ProPublica Illinois and Chicago Tribune investigation sparked a statewide ban on some forms of seclusion and restraint of students, a small group of schools lobbied against the measure. And it worked.

Illinois Adopts Stricter Rules Against Secluding and Physically Restraining Students in Schools

The state board of education stopped short of a complete ban on seclusion after a small number of special education schools asked for more leeway in dealing with students.

School Employees Have Used Isolated Timeouts Illegally, State Investigations Find

In six of eight districts investigators examined, they found that workers broke the law by improperly secluding students. Parents say the investigations, which were prompted by a Chicago Tribune and ProPublica Illinois story, have not gone far enough.

Local Accountability Journalism Still Has a Huge Impact

Between the Local Reporting Network and ProPublica Illinois, our work shows that state leaders across the country are listening and things can change.

Educators Push to Ban Seclusion of Students and Shift School Culture

Educators who testified before Illinois lawmakers on Tuesday agreed: Shutting students inside closet-sized rooms as punishment is never OK.

A Chicago Psychiatric Hospital Is Under Fire After Child Abuse Allegations. Again.

A new lawsuit calls Chicago Lakeshore a “hospital of horrors,” where children as young as 7 were allegedly sexually abused and others were injected with sedatives and physically attacked — all while officials covered it up.

Illinois Will Allow Prone, Supine Restraints on Children While Schools Learn to Phase Them Out

The changes to a ban on restraints came after some schools said they could no longer serve children.

There’s an Emergency Ban on Isolated Timeouts in Illinois Schools. What’s Next?

The state board of education said it will refer school workers to law enforcement if they are suspected of committing crimes against children as the emergency ban on seclusion in Illinois public schools goes into effect.

Illinois to Take Emergency Action to Halt Isolated Timeouts in Schools

Gov. J.B. Pritzker called the practice of secluding children “appalling” and said he will work with legislators to end it.

Illinois Legislators Vote to End License Suspensions for Motorists With Unpaid Parking Tickets

The measure must still be signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who has been critical of how ticket debt harms Chicago motorists.

Hundreds of Thousands of Chicago Motorists Could Receive Debt Relief From Vehicle Sticker Tickets as the City Expands Reform

Attention, Chicago motorists: You have until Oct. 31 to buy a city sticker and then qualify for a new debt forgiveness program.

Chicago City Council Approves Ticket and Debt Collection Reforms to Help Low-Income and Minority Motorists

The measures, which were prompted by a ProPublica Illinois and WBEZ Chicago investigation, are scheduled to take effect by mid-November.

Lawmakers and Students Say Professors Who Sexually Harass Should Face Stronger Consequences

After NPR Illinois and ProPublica found that several University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign professors who violated policies were allowed to quietly resign and take paid leave with their reputations intact, lawmakers called for reforms.

El Departamento de Educación Federal Quiere Frenar la “Trama Fraudulenta de Ayuda Estudiantil” en que Padres Ceden La Custodia a Través de Tutelas Dudosas

Un día después de nuestro reportaje, el inspector general del departamento dice que quiere cerrar los agujeros legales de ayuda financiera.

Illinois Lawmakers Call Hearing to “Demand Answers” and Find Ways to Close a Loophole in College Financial Aid Scandal

Legislators said parents who turn over guardianship of their children to get financial aid engaged in a “manipulative practice.” They’re exploring whether they can subpoena parents to testify.

U.S. Department of Education Wants to Stop “Student Aid Fraud Scheme” Where Parents Give Up Custody Through Dubious Guardianships

One day after our reporting, the department’s inspector general said it wants to close financial aid loopholes.

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