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I’m the Idaho Statesman’s new education reporter. Here’s how I’m approaching the beat

·3 min read

Idaho has consistently ranked last in the amount of money it spends per student on education. The percent of students who go onto higher education has lagged, and some public officials have now turned their focus to a new topic: “indoctrination” in schools.

On top of that, students and teachers are facing an unprecedented challenge: trying to recover from the coronavirus pandemic — a difficult year that likely further exacerbated issues the state was facing.

But, for the past four years, the Idaho Statesman has not had a reporter devoted to covering these issues.

That’s finally changing. Through a partnership with Report for America — a national service program that puts journalists in newsrooms across the country and helps fund their work — I will be covering K-12 education in the Treasure Valley and higher education across Idaho.

Education touches nearly every part of life. What students learn from an early age, and how they are educated, shapes them as they grow up and enter the workforce. And in turn, the supports and resources students have outside the classroom — whether that’s access to food, housing, health care or technology — has a significant impact on whether kids are able to succeed in school.

This past year will inevitably have an impact on students for years to come, affecting everything from mental health to student test scores and graduation rates.

I am excited to provide education coverage at a time when it is so desperately needed.

In this new role, I’ll be covering some divisive stories, like the new focus on critical race theory and claims of indoctrination in Idaho, and what that means for how schools teach history.

But my coverage will go beyond that.

I want to focus on those issues that aren’t talked about enough — like how students with disabilities were impacted during a pandemic that relied on remote learning and how teachers whose salaries haven’t kept up with the cost of living are grappling with increasing housing costs and, in some cases, having to work multiple jobs to make ends meet.

My goal in this new role is to center the voices of students, teachers, staff and families — those who know best what’s happening in their own schools. I want to be able to illustrate just how much different policies and other changes at a state or district level will impact people across the education system. The best people to talk about the real-life impacts of decisions made at the top are those who are experiencing it themselves.

And I want to hold accountable schools, districts and local and state officials — to look into why Idaho struggles so much in so many areas relating to education and why certain things work, and others don’t. Through my reporting, I hope to show why these challenges exist and to start to effect change across the state.

If you want to talk, you can reach me at bsavransky@idahostatesman.com or 208-495-5661.

To do this coverage, I need your support. Report for America pays part of my salary. The rest comes from the local community through fundraising efforts. You also can support this coverage simply by reading it, which demonstrates the importance of education coverage.

As local papers downsize and reporters try to provide the same coverage with fewer resources, it is local communities that are impacted. Report for America this year sent about 300 journalists to more than 200 newsrooms in nearly every state, and it is planning to grow to include 1,000 reporters by 2024.

Its mission is simple: “To strengthen our communities and our democracy through local journalism that is truthful, fearless, fair and smart.”

To support this position, go to IdahoStatesman.com/donate. Donations are tax-deductible through Journalism Funding Partners.

Becca Savransky covers education for the Idaho Statesman in partnership with Report for America. The position is partly funded through community support. Click here to donate.

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