The state’s schools chief has an aggressive legislative agenda for 2019, despite her surprise announcement this week that she doesn’t plan to run for re-election.
One theme of Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick’s agenda for next year is accountability. She wants charter schools and their authorizers to be held more accountable for school quality both academically and fiscally.
Some other officials in the state have similar ideas, though policymakers have largely been hesitant to further regulate those and private schools. Right now, a few members on the State Board of Education are part of a committee dedicated to looking at – and eventually making recommendations to change – virtual charter school regulations.
McCormick also says she’ll continue pushing for a single school accountability system aligned with the federal one. It’s part of an ongoing conversation with state board members as they work to reshape the state’s school accountability system.
McCormick’s department will also advocate for measures to ensure inclusive practices for students and staff in schools taking public dollars, particularly for the LGBT community.
“Our concern is we still have schools that are allowed to have policies that are exclusionary of kids that fall under that umbrella and we don’t think that’s acceptable,” she says.
At least one lawmaker shares that concern. Rep. Dan Forestal (D-Indianapolis) has revealed plans for a bill during the session to keep voucher money out of private schools with discriminatory policies, after an Indianapolis private school placed a guidance counselor on leave due to her marriage to a woman in August.
Another focus included on the department’s 2019 agenda is teacher mentorship and licensure. McCormick says Indiana loses an “alarming” number of new teachers every year, and lacks reciprocity for teachers licensed out of state.
“That means if you come in to Indiana you’ve got some hoops you got to jump through even though you’ve taught in Ohio for 15 years – you still got to come here, take another test to prove you can do it,” she says.
McCormick also hopes lawmakers consider measures focused on early education. She says the state needs to expand it’s On My Way Pre-K program, and adjust the age limit deadline for kindergartners to support young learners. Lawmakers made a change earlier this year to prevent schools from receiving state money for children under 5-years-old on Aug. 1, and McCormick wants to see that deadline pushed back to November.
“The point is move it back to around count date to capture kids who are clearly ready,” she says.
With 2019 being a budget writing year for the General Assembly, other crucial money matters are also up for discussion. McCormick’s budget asks include a 3 percent increase in tuition support for both years, another $20 million in STEM funding, and additional support to close gaps in special education funding.
She also wants to see an increase in funding for assessments, textbook reimbursement money for schools, and about $16.5 million more for English language learning programs.
Lawmakers convene for the session in January.