“You know, we’re spending roughly $146 million on a program and not really reviewing it. That is irresponsible,” said McCormick, a Republican who took office in January.Indiana's Superintendent of Public Instruction, Jennifer McCormick, has been in the news lately since she was interviewed by National Public Radio for an article titled, The Promise And Peril Of School Vouchers.
Earlier this month NEIFPE sat down with Superintendent McCormick to discuss the education policies in Indiana and what we could do to help support public education. Our discussion was very cordial and we were happy to discover that Dr. McCormick agrees with us on several important issues. She is convinced that there are some things we cannot change, like vouchers and charters. Our goal, instead, should be to prevent them from draining more resources from public schools. This goes along with her public comment about the irresponsibility of spending millions on vouchers without any review of the program.
Dr. McCormick emphasized the need for public accountability for every school receiving tax dollars. Transparency, she said, is an important part of the Republicans' political message. We should remind our Republican legislators of the need for transparency in education when we contact them.
Some other topics we discussed...
- The Legislature may not let the change to the appointment of the State Superintendent wait till 2025. She thinks they'll move up the date during an upcoming legislative sessions. If (and when) that happens our focus should be on publicizing what the Gubernatorial candidate's education platform has been/will be.
- We suggested that, since the Superintendent will become an appointed position, we should lobby for an elected State Board Of Education. While she didn't disagree with the idea, she doesn't think it will happen.
- She said that the Indiana Association of School Business Officials seems to be the only group that has the ear of Indiana legislators – more than principals, school boards, superintendents, and, of course, teachers. This group would include school system business managers and chief financial officers. Lobbying them could be helpful.
- The Superintendent's office will be sending people to legislative conferences including ALEC. She was very clear about her distaste for ALEC, but is sending someone to find out what the legislators are hearing. She will also be sending representatives from her office to the National Conference of State Legislatures, a more middle-of-the-road legislative conference. The people she is sending will include educators. Her goal is to be able to combat the information coming to legislators with the truth about public education in Indiana.
- She accepts that vouchers and charters are here to stay. Her goal in the IDOE and in discussions with legislators is to try to minimize the damage the funding drain for those programs does to public schools. For example, she said she worked hard to get voucher money separated from the education budget. She succeeded in the Senate version, but the House stripped it out.
- We discussed Indiana state legislators. She said that Senator Dennis Kruse is very willing to listen to what she has to say and, while they disagree on some things, she will continue to talk to him. She indicated that she is also in contact with Senators Luke Kenley and David Long. Her feeling seems to be that the Senate has had enough of "education reform."
- Testing: Dr. McCormick came from a school district where there wasn't a lot of mobility among the families, but she understands how unfair it is that schools are being judged when their student population is transient. In addition, she understands the effect of poverty on student test scores. She said she is still hoping to get an "off the shelf" test for K-8. She is also concerned with the problems associated with testing at the secondary level.
- She and her team are coming up with policy points for the next legislative session. They intend to disperse the points throughout the state for citizens to use when contacting legislators so that they hear the same information over and over again...to give us a united focus.