Welcome to School Matters

Welcome to the School Matters: Indiana K-12 blog, our modest attempt to be part of an essential conversation about education in America, Indiana and, especially, our community of Bloomington, Ind.

Why are we doing this? Primarily because we think it’s the right thing to do. Our schools matter more than anything else to the future of our nation and the well-being of our children and youth. Yet it’s not easy to get access to a full range of news and views about education. As a report in December by the Brookings Institution lamented, “During the first nine months of 2009, only 1.4 percent of national news coverage from television, newspapers, news Web sites, and radio dealt with education.”

We are grateful, living in Bloomington, that the Herald-Times has experienced, full-time reporters covering both K-12 and higher education, a rare commitment of resources these days. We’re also inspired by the growth of online communication about school matters, such as the Support Public Education in Monroe County Facebook group and the Support Our Schools online forum. We hope to augment these traditional and new-media sources with news, analysis and links that are timely, accurate and relevant.

We both spent years covering K-12 education for the Herald-Times, and we remain intensely interested in the topic. We find ourselves thinking and talking about education nearly every day. As journalists, we try to make sense of the world by reporting and writing about it. And nothing is more in need of making sense right now than the state of our schools.

The immediate impetus for starting this blog was the MCCSC’s decision, in response to state funding cuts, to reduce spending by $5.8 million and eliminate the jobs of 142 teachers, librarians and administrators – 79 of them through reductions in force and the rest through retirements. Nearly every week has brought new questions to address: Why these reductions and not others? Will state legislation provide a way out? Will the MCCSC launch a tax-increase referendum this fall or next spring? What will it take for a referendum to win?

But local school issues don’t exist in a vacuum. Teaching jobs are being slashed across Indiana. Schools are closing in Kansas City, Detroit … and New Albany. Debates are raging over charter schools, public school choice, merit pay for teachers, school turn-around methods, and how to best prepare, motivate and evaluate teachers. There’s so much to learn, so much to say – let’s get started.