McCormick advises forum attendees to speak in totality



JASPER — After leading a public education forum at Vincennes University Jasper on Tuesday night, Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick fielded an audience question from a Jasper Middle School teacher that was likely on many minds.

What can we do to advocate for Hoosier students?

“You can help by helping those who believe in public education,” McCormick responded, adding that this could include things like educating the public or volunteering time with campaigns. “But it’s really just continuing to be a champion, doing what you do every day. But when you can get behind someone, you get behind them.”

McCormick, who is currently serving the final year of her four-year, elected term, spoke to about 30 attendees for just under an hour at VUJ about the current state of education in Indiana and how it could change in the future. The event was organized by the Dubois County Democrats.

Among many issues, she pointed to the growing number of educators working on emergency permits, meaning they may not be licensed in the areas they teach in. She showed the number of students who are in the free and reduced lunch program — 47% across the state and climbing — and said that though the unemployment rate is low in the state, parents still struggle to make ends meet. And she talked of the continued increase in the number of Indiana charter and accredited nonpublic schools.

“Our charter schools, you talk about the wild, wild west,” McCormick said. “Our message has been you gotta have quality control. If we’re gonna be a state of choice, which that’s not going to go away ... but it can’t just be whatever you want.”

Quality controls are important to those types of schools, she explained, but she added that existing loopholes make it easy for them to work around.

“Taxpayers should be outraged about that,” McCormick said.

In 2021, her position will change from one that is elected to one that is appointed by the governor. She said that switch will consolidate a large amount of control into one person’s hands.

“This is an enormous amount of power,” McCormick explained. “And it’s not about liking or disliking the person. It’s just, this is a lot of power that citizens need to be aware ... that the next governor will hold a lot, a lot of power through the whole system.”

McCormick urged attendees — many with ties to the education system — to speak to elected officials and representatives about funding numbers she shared on Tuesday. She also stressed that inside those conversations, it’s important to bring all the data to the table, and not just little pieces of it.

“Please do not have conversations with your legislators and talk about one of these things,” she said. “You have to talk in totality. Because the loss of money is in totality. Yes, it’s pieced, but I would rather you go and say, ‘Look, let’s talk about all of the money.’ Because when you start doing it in pieces, the impact is marginalized, and they will hang on to that.”

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