Republican Jennifer McCormick has ousted Democrat Glenda Ritz to become the state’s leading education official.
With 54 percent of the vote, the Associated Press reports McCormick has won the race for state superintendent of public instruction, with 84 percent of polls reporting .
“We have a lot of work to do,” McCormick says. “But we’re ready to get to work.”
She says her top priorities include repairing relationships between the Department of Education and the Republican-controlled Legislature and developing a replacement for Indiana’s standardized test, known as ISTEP. That test must be given to students in spring 2017.
“We have to make it fair, we have to make it transparent, and we’re under a timeline,” McCormick says.
Like Ritz, McCormick enters the office with years of experience in public education. McCormick has served as as a teacher, elementary school principal, assistant superintendent and current Yorktown Community Schools superintendent.
McCormick’s education agenda includes expanding the state’s preschool pilot program, expanding schools’ broadband and internet access, and revamping the state’s school ranking system.
A Republican education leader paves the way for changes with the political skirmishes that have come to define Indiana education policy.
For the past four years, Ritz has served in the superintendent position as the only Democrat in a statewide elected position, often leading to political clashes with an otherwise Republican leadership.
In her concession speech, Ritz called upon educators and parents to hold legislators accountable.
“You must be part of the conversation, to be strong advocates for our children and public education,” Ritz says. “Be a loud voice at the statehouse.
Although McCormick’s policies are a departure from past Republican superintendents who were vocal advocates for school choice through charter schools and private school vouchers, her party affiliation alone could pave the way for less friction over education policy from a Republican-controlled Legislature.
“Things will certainly go more smoothly now,” says RaeAnn Wintin, who teaches high school special education in Seymour. “But whether they will be in the best interest of students and teachers in Indiana remains to be seen.
McCormick’s victory was unexpected by a number of measures. She had little of the name recognition Ritz carries and campaigned with far less money. According to campaign finance reports, McCormick campaigned with $380,401.85 and Ritz campaigned with over twice that amount, $873,360.22.
McCormick’s victory came as a pleasant surprise, says Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis and House Education Committee Chair.
“I don’t think many people thought it was possible,” Behning says.
Over the next year, a primary responsibility of the superintendent will be to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act, a federal education law that replaces the No Child Left Behind Act signed into law by Pres. George W. Bush in 2002.
As that law takes effect, McCormick will have a say in creating a new standardized test to replace the ISTEP, changing how the state focuses on the education of English language learners and how the state should rate and support schools.