Niki Kelly, writing for the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, reports that Superintendent McCormick will not run for re-election. Arika Herron, writing for the Indianapolis Star, reports that Superintendent McCormick believes that “any school that takes public money should be an inclusive place for LGBT students and staff.” It seems pretty clear that she does not see eye-to-eye with her Republican colleagues on what the Superintendent of Public Instruction’s role should be or with how charters and private schools should be held accountable for their receipt and use of public money. This news came as Dr. McCormick discussed the Department of Education’s legislative priorities for the upcoming session. Among the priorities she announced for the Department were providing an inclusive environment for K-12 students, holding charter school authorizers accountable both fiscally and academically, and reducing testing time.
[P]roviding children an early opportunity to learn while ensuring all K-12 students are provided an inclusive environment is pivotal to the well-being of children and Indiana’s success[.] . . . Dr. McCormick will champion for charter school quality by holding authorizers accountable, both fiscally and academically. An aligned assessment system will also live in this area. In an effort to further reduce testing time and align PK-12 efforts, assessment will once again be a part of the legislative discussion.
With respect to Dr. McCormick’s decision not to run for a second term in 2020, she said, “We’ve done some great work. When I got into this office my charge was ‘I want to do what’s best for kids.’ I think back, and I was so cute. I was so naive. Now that I’ve learned the governance structure, things are very complicated in Indiana. . . . As a parent, I would not be happy if my state superintendent … were spending time on noise and that’s simply what this has become. For that conversation to keep coming up and suck all of our energies out, to me I’m growing very weary of that, so the best way I can help shut that down is to let people know I’m not running again.” When Dr. McCormick’s Democratic predecessor won the office, the General Assembly and Governor took steps to limited its authority. The State Board of Education has been given more power in recent years, and more dramatically, legislation was passed to make the Office of the Superintendent an appointed rather than an elected position. That transition is scheduled to take effect in 2025, but with Dr. McCormick’s announcement, there is speculation that the General Assembly might try to accelerate the schedule so that the Superintendent is appointed in 2021.
The issue of inclusiveness appears to be a reference to Roncalli’s decision to terminate a long-time, well-regarded guidance counselor when the school was made aware (or forced to acknowledge) that the counselor had a spouse of the same sex. Roncalli is a private school but it’s funded — in part — with public money. The question becomes whether public money should come with conditions and, if so, what conditions should be attached. Obviously, it should and does come with conditions. Voucher money can’t just go anywhere. The voucher school has to look and act more or less like a school. If it was, for example, a tavern that labeled itself a “school,” then Rep. Behning would likely change his position. He says:
If parents have a problem with the school’s practices, employment or otherwise, Behning said they can send their child elsewhere. In that case their tuition will follow, whether it’s paid by the parent or by the state. “Parents are the ones that should be making those decisions,” he said, “rather than the government.”
Rep. Behning is obviously being a little disingenuous here. The government simply wouldn’t let parents make the tavern decision. So, as the joke goes, we’re just haggling over the price. Is discrimination on that basis against an otherwise well-qualified employee because she has a same-sex spouse something we’re willing to fund or not? I obviously fall on the “not” side of that question, and it sounds like Dr. McCormick does as well. My guess is that the General Assembly will be perfectly willing to continue subsidizing Roncalli, notwithstanding its employment practices. (Because, remember, my view of the three goals of the General Assembly when it comes to school vouchers: 1) Hurt the teacher’s unions; 2) direct education money to friends & well-wishers; and 3) subsidize religious education.)
After the Tony Bennett experience, I have to confess I was skeptical of what Dr. McCormick’s tenure might bring. People who follow this sort of thing more closely might be able to enlighten me, but I can’t say I’ve had any real cause for complaint so far.