Lee V. Gaines

Reporter - Education

Lee V. Gaines is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Reader, Chicago Magazine, Crain’sthe Pacific Standard and the Marshall Project. She also recently completed a fellowship with Chicago non-profit journalism lab, City Bureau. 

Lee has more than six years of experience producing breaking news, magazine-length feature stories and investigative reports on subjects including education, the medical marijuana industry, criminal justice reform, social justice, local and regional politics, in addition to stories about Chicago’s thriving music and arts scene. 

A Rhode Island native, Lee began her career as a staff reporter for GateHouse Media New England covering the Boston suburbs.

Lee reports on education from Illinois Public Media as part of the Illinois Newsroom regional journalism collaborative.

Courtesy Pritzker Campaign / Illinois Information Service

Jeff Martin, a high school admission advisor for the Midwest Technical Institute, worries about the amount of college debt facing the students he talks to for a living. He should know because he was in their shoes once. Martin said he travels to high schools to talk to students about college and career choices.

And he said he worries about the financial futures of the students he meets because he said it’s “almost impossible” to pay for college out of pocket without the help of a lot of scholarships and financial aid.

Victoria Nieto For Illinois Newsroom

In 2000, Charles Davidson was arrested the day before the 4th of July for a crime he said he didn’t commit. Urbana Police responded that evening to a complaint of fireworks and came upon Davidson, who claims he made the complaint on behalf of his mother. According to court records, police accused the now 68-year-old youth mentor of providing officers with the false last name of “Edwards.” Davidson said “Edwards” was his mother’s last name, and he simply gave police his first name.

Michelle McAnarney said she realized her daughter Darby was different than other children soon after she was born.

"She was always a little delayed physically," said McAnarney, a Springfield resident. Darby was well over a year old when she started walking, but "once she could walk, I'm not even joking the next day she was running," she said.

If McAnarney and her husband took Darby, who is now four years old, to loud or chaotic places, she'd become overwhelmed -- tip a plate over in a restaurant, throw a tantrum in a grocery store -- in an attempt to exit the situation.

Lee V. Gaines / Illinois Newsroom

Chuck Bleyer is worried the southern Illinois school district he heads won’t be able to fill an open teacher position by the time classes start this fall.


Photo illustration: sean hobson/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Simple, everyday tasks  – like ordering coffee, crossing the street, or getting gas – can be an obstacle, or an intimidating challenge for people recently released from prison. This is especially true for people who have spent many years behind bars.


Courtesy IEA

Children who experience trauma often face behavioral, health and academic challenges, according to decades of research. Kristine Argue, instructional resource and professional development director for the Illinois Education Association (IEA), teaches educators across the state about the science around trauma and brain development, and she encourages administrators, teachers and school support staff to find ways to make their learning environments more welcoming for all students.

Teachers in Champaign receiving training in trauma
Lee V. Gaines/Illinois Newsroom

Last month, about a dozen people gathered in the basement of a church in Champaign, Ill. to learn about how traumatic experiences affect the lives of children and young adults, and what they can do to mitigate its effects.


Vicki White, president of Chicago Books to Women in Prison, reads a letter sent from an incarcerated woman to the organization, which donates books to women in prisons in Illinois and across the country.
Lee V. Gaines/Illinois Newsroom

Every Sunday, a group of women meets in the basement of a church in Chicago’s Ravenswood neighborhood to sort and package boxes of books. The boxes are sent to women in prisons in Illinois and beyond the state’s borders. In total, the group, Chicago Books to Women in Prison (BWP), has sent nearly 20,000 books to incarcerated women in the last five years, and tens of thousands since the organization was founded in 2002.


Lee Gaines/Illinois Newsroom

Hundreds of classes have been canceled and dozens more relocated as a strike by graduate employees at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign continues into a second week. On Tuesday night, graduate workers occupied the office of university president Tim Killeen. Strikers have a variety of demands, but one of the most contentious points focuses on the future of tuition waivers — and whether some graduate workers will have to pay tuition while employed in academic positions on campus.


Screen capture of Prison Legal News newsletter
Prison Legal News

The publisher of a newsletter about the criminal justice system filed a lawsuit this week against the Illinois Department of Corrections alleging that multiple state prisons barred inmates from receiving all or part of several publications.

Lee V. Gaines / Illinois Newsroom

About 100 teachers and school support staff spent the better part of three hours inside a junior high school gymnasium in rural, east central Illinois in early January. They were role playing people living in poverty.