It’s a new year, and there’s a new resource for school policy hounds in the Commonwealth: The Virginia Education Report, an online publication that launched in the last weeks of 2011.

Its founder is Chad Ratliff, an educator with a day job who sees a need for more connection and conversation among the lawmakers and bureaucrats who grind out school policy and those who live with the results — teachers, administrators and parents.

“We want to follow the policy-making process and help folks understand how policy interacts with the on-the-ground realities of public education,” says Ratliff, a former teacher who now works for Albemarle County schools as an assistant director for instruction.

If early posts are any indication, the site will help shed light on the kind of fine-grain edu-wonk that plays a huge role in shaping Virginia schools but gets little attention elsewhere.

A good example is Monday’s piece outlining pre-filed education bills that are likely to make waves during the 2012 session of the General Assembly.

Ratliff says he wants to combine straight-ahead journalism with smart commentary on education issues. So far, he has been putting together a daily aggregation of local and state education news that’s more complete than anything else I’ve been able to find.

Besides assembling a team of what appear to be regular contributors, Ratliff has also put out a call for submissions, including original reporting and opinion/analysis pieces on curriculum, teacher training, education reform, Richmond goings-on ... Anything school-related, really, as long as the writer has something interesting, provocative or constructive to say (PR flaks need not apply, Ratliff says).

For a taste, check out teacher Chad Sansing’s take on problems with Virginia’s charter school law, and on the potential for changes in 2012 now that Republicans dominate the General Assembly.

The Virginia Education Report has no outside funding. “This is just something we’re going to throw up there,” says Ratliff, who has been working on the site evenings and weekends and anytime he has a free moment. “If it moves it moves, if it doesn’t it doesn’t.”