Jeff Kovaleski

Indiana teachers and their supporters kicked off the 2020 legislative session of the General Assembly Nov. 5 with chants, shouts, handmade signs and a unified voice. Some 15,000 people, many clad in red, surrounded the Statehouse like an algae bloom off Florida’s Gulf Coast.

Teachers want more money, a de-emphasis on standardized testing and an end to a new state requirement for them to commit 15 hours, without pay, to work a job in their communities in order to better know their local workforce needs.

We don’t know where all our 100 representatives and 50 senators stand on the issues our state’s K-12 instructors raised last month. But we know this: Gov. Eric Holcomb heard them.

Announcing his legislative agenda for the 2020 session, the governor told the Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce on Dec. 10 that he wants the 15-hour work requirement to be made optional; teachers and their schools to be “held harmless” for low test scores on Indiana’s ISTEP standardized test replacement, ILEARN; and the Hoosier State to be among the top three in teacher pay in the Midwest – just not next year.

No doubt, several thousand teachers surrounding the capitol will get a governor’s attention. In legislation as in other endeavors, consensus must precede change.

Newspaper editorials attempt to build such consensus among readers. And like our state’s teachers, the CNHI newspaper group’s 12 Indiana papers have prepared a legislative agenda of our own.

When people, even newspaper editors, work together, good things can happen.

This year, CNHI’s Hoosier newspapers won the top award from the Indiana Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists for our year-long investigation into the state’s township governments. Our staffers visited 94 townships across the state. We found this form of government costs taxpayers $400 million annually — and 70% of Hoosiers we surveyed agreed township services should be taken over by county governments.

Our newspapers also swept this year’s top prizes from the Hoosier State Press Association (the Blue Ribbon for the state’s best daily newspaper) and the Indiana Associated Press Media Editors (the Kent Cooper Award for the state’s story of the year). And last month, our websites had 5.14 million page views and 1.39 million unique visitors.

Were every one of those unique visitors a Hoosier, our readership would represent a tad over 1 in 5 Indiana residents.

CNHI newspapers in Indiana have quite a bit of influence, from Goshen in the north, to Jeffersonville in the south; from Batesville in the east, to Terre Haute in the west. Individually we can affect change, but collectively we can move the legislative agenda for the betterment of all residents.

Jeff Kovaleski is editor of the Kokomo Tribune, one of 13 CNHI newspapers in Indiana. Contact him at jeff.kovaleski@kokomotribune.com

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