Tucked into an education bill in this year’s session of the Indiana legislature is a provision that ignores the self-evident, the obvious.

Public notices belong where the public will see them.

House Bill 1003, a measure that addresses several education matters, includes a provision that would eliminate the requirement that an annual performance report for a school corporation must be published in a local newspaper. Instead, school districts would submit the report to the state Department of Education, which has been posting the results on its website.

The bill is scheduled for a second hearing in the House Education Committee today.

The publication requirement would end, despite the fact that six out of 10 adult Hoosiers say they have read public notices in the newspaper, and there would be a 60 percent decline in their readership of public notices if they are only posted on government websites. That’s according to a 2017 poll by American Opinion Research.

Lawmakers who favor this sort of change point to falling print circulation among newspapers and say there are other ways to present such information, that notices can be posted other places, and that parents with internet access could still monitor their children’s schools.

The school performance report is among the more highly read public notices published in Indiana newspapers. Public viewing of school performance reports on the DOE website is minimal compared to 3 million Hoosier adults who read a newspaper at least once a week. As the Hoosier State Press Association points out, newspapers with print and online readership still reach far more readers than low-traffic state websites.

That change would require an extra effort and diligence to track down the information. Legislators should be making it easier, not more complicated, for Hoosiers to access public notices.

The provision in HB 1003 goes against the self-interests of Hoosiers and their ability to stay informed. It’s not difficult: Put public notices where the public will see them.

South Bend Tribune, Jan. 22

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