Democratic incumbent Glenda Ritz and Republican Jennifer McCormick are facing each other in the Indiana state schools superintendent race. Here are some key issues in the campaign:
Both candidates support expanding state-funded optional preschool programs, but they differ on how fast that should happen.
Ritz and Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Gregg call for quick expansion. Ritz argues that the state could provide pre-kindergarten to half of Indiana’s 4-year-old children by 2020, paying for it with a mix of current state funding, federal money and private grants.
McCormick — like Republican gubernatorial nominee Eric Holcomb — favors a slower approach, saying a broader program should target the most at-risk children. She cites concerns about cost to the state and the availability of qualified teachers and adequate facilities.
A-F SCHOOL RATINGS
Ritz has opposed the current single-grade school rating system based on ISTEP exam results that was implemented by Republican legislators. She wants the state to adopt reports that incorporate the test results and student improvement data.
McCormick wants schools rated on a broader report card, rather of a single A-F grade. She also favors ending the state requirement that teacher evaluations for pay increases be tied to student test results. She says school districts should decide teacher evaluation standards.
Ritz and McCormick both say their priorities are shortening the time needed to take the exam and speeding up how quickly results are given to schools.
Ritz says that can be done by having three shorter tests during the school year and having exams mostly be online, with questions becoming harder or easier based on a student’s response.
McCormick wants to keep a single standardized test because teachers already track what their students are learning throughout the school year. She wants local school districts to have options for mid-year exams.
The Legislature voted this year to mandate that a new standardized exam be selected to replace the ISTEP test for the 2017-18 school year, but lawmakers say that deadline will likely be pushed back because a committee has made little progress on recommendations.
Much of Ritz’s campaign funding has come from the state’s largest teachers unions, including about $150,000 from the Indiana State Teachers Association and $30,000 from the American Federation of Teachers. Teachers’ groups helped her defeat GOP schools superintendent Tony Bennett in 2012, after he aggressively pushed education overhaul measures they opposed, including the state’s private school voucher program.
The biggest contributions to McCormick’s campaign have been groups and individuals who supported overhaul steps championed by Bennett. That includes $50,000 from Hoosiers for Quality Education, a charter school and voucher advocacy group, and $50,000 from Indianapolis charter school founder Christel DeHaan.
McCormick says the support doesn’t affect her policy positions and that she shared concerns about how quickly the overhaul measures were implemented.