Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Answering the $20,000 Question

The frontpage story of the Chicago Tribune this past Sunday, titled The $20,000 Question was an investigative report on how the state has squandered grant money on tutoring and mentoring programs, primarily on the West Side of Chicago, that are not actually open or do not exist. Some of these programs employ ex-cons, others don't have equipment that works. Most of these programs can be traced to State Senator Ricky Hendon and his supporters.

This article brings up many important issues that we here at Cabrini Connections addresses. Dan Bassill, in his blog, discusses how investigations like this bring up questions of what being a tutoring or a mentoring program actually means.

On my end, as the Tutor/Mentor Connection Research and Networking Coordinator, it's my job to make sure that all of the tutoring and mentoring programs in our database of tutoring and mentoring programs throughout the Chicagoland area are up-to-date and are still actually doing what they're supposed to be doing. Every six months or so we try and contact each and every program in the database to make sure their information is correct and up-to-date. This is to ensure that we are not referring students, parents, counselors, teachers, social workers and potential volunteers to tutoring and mentoring programs that have out-of-date information or no longer exist.

In my current position I also work as a referral service, helping tutoring and mentoring programs be the best they possibly can be. The tragic thing about the illegitimate tutoring and mentoring programs cited in the article is that the region that most of them are located, Chicago's far-west side is in dire need of quality tutoring and mentoring programs. Hopefully people will understand that fact from the article and act by starting tutoring and mentoring programs or helping to fund tutoring and mentoring programs that we have listed in that region.
I, myself, am working to make sure that these programs are able to at least start up blogs, if not websites, so they can take advantage of being found on the internet. I also will be helping programs learn about collaborating with other programs in their area and throughout Chicago through means such as the Volunteer Recruitment Campaign.

It's investigations like the one in the Sunday Tribune that can be frustrating to tutoring and mentoring programs in poverty-stricken areas that are trying to succeed and are desperate for funding. Fortunately this has given the Illinois Board of Education a reality check and made them start evaluating the means by which they approve grant applications. Also, it brings to light how important programs such a the Tutor/Mentor Connection are in making sure legitimate programs are advertised so that people will know about them. Hopefully, the message people will be getting from this article is that money that goes to illegitmate programs is not going to children-in-need and that needs to be changed.

No comments: