Jennifer McCormick, the GOP candidate for state superintendent of public instruction, released a detailed plan Wednesday on how she would manage education and attempt to influence state policy if she ousts incumbent Glenda Ritz in November.
McCormick echoed similar policy shifts championed by Ritz -- like a more robust grading system for schools instead of the current A-to-F rating -- but also offered starkly different approaches, such as opposition to universal state-funded preschool and support for some school choice policies during a press conference.
While the Yorktown superintendent said she agreed with some legislation passed during the past eight years, such as the focus on teacher evaluations, she also explained that rhetoric “from several areas” painted teachers as unprepared and unworthy of pay raises.
“Teachers want to feel like there is a purpose. As a state, we done a pretty good job on beating up on the profession,” McCormick said. “That needs to stop. We need to make sure that we are holding our educators to the highest esteem.”
Part of making that stop, McCormick said, is by the the state superintendent working with both political parties to pass policies that benefit educator and schools and communicating better with school leaders.
McCormick claims that Ritz’s adversarial relationship with the Republican governor’s office and Statehouse majority has caused prevented all sides from hammering out policy details.
“For one, you have to have a state superintendent who will verbally commit to working with the governor and working with those lawmakers. That has to happen,” she said. “For us to be known across the nation as that is a state with a relational problem -- that is unacceptable.”
In a response, the Rtiz Campaign says McCormick is following a political agenda that aligns with former Republican Superintendent Tony Bennett, who championed controversial reforms, such as the adoption of the Common Core academic standards and state-takeover of chronically failing schools.
Here is what McCormick said on various issues:
Universal state-funded preschool: McCormick maintains there is no plan to maintain funding if universal preschool was approved. She also says supporters have yet to solve the problem of increasing the number of accredited preschool providers across the state. “My charge is you focus on those who are most at risk - those not already being served by preschool, Special education, Headstart or other programs.”
Student testing: “The assessment should take less than 1 percent of the instructional time at each grade level … It is extremely important that we shorten the assessment.” Schools already have a lot of data on students that
Teacher evaluations: “One test does not tell all about the educator. The day of saying your performance is all based on one exam needs to stop.”
Funding: Two years ago lawmakers changed how funding is calculated for poor students -- a change that caused a projected $17 million cut to Indianapolis Public Schools -- and now McCormick says that needs reviewed again. “We need to make sure that our schools are funded in an equitable and adequate fashion. It’s not just about the dollar-to-dollar that follows our students. We need to look at the federal monies, we need to look at the formula and the complexity index.”
School technology: McCormick wants an investment of $10 million into broadband access for schools, similar to improvements for state roads. “There is no wiggle room for that.” Only nine Indiana school districts are expected to meet a broadband capacity target of one gigabyte per second for 1,000 students by next school year.
Teacher pay: McCormick wants a review of salary schedules options for teachers and focus less on evaluations to decide pay increases and bonuses. An increase in the state’s tuition support could provide a boost to teachers, she says.