Indiana’s top educator outlines 2019 legislative priorities

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INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Three months away from the start of the 2019 legislative session, Indiana’s top educator laid out the priorities she wants to lawmakers to address.

“Our schools are telling us, they’re signaling to us, ‘We need some help. We need some resources in school safety,'” Jennifer McCormick, state superintendent of public instruction, explained Monday.

McCormick said she wants to give schools that help, but she needs lawmakers to step up.

“I’ve had some conversations with students, and when we talk about drilling, they look me dead in the face and say ‘We don’t drill.’ That is a problem. But until we have something at the state level that says, ‘This is what needs to happen,’ we will continue to hope for the best in some of our schools,”  McCormick explained.

That’s why McCormick she wants all schools that receive tax dollars to meet the same security thresholds. She said traditional public schools are running safety drills and turn in plans, but at some charter and nonpublic schools that receive public funds safety drills are not happening.

“This is on one of those, I wish we were a little more heavy-handed, to say you have to have a school safety specialist, which is free. You have to have a plan, which is free. You have to run drills, which is free,” McCormick explained.

This past special session, lawmakers approved a $5 million boost for school security.

“We will go after that again to look at what revenues are available,” McCormick explained. 

McCormick also wanted lawmakers to move the kindergarten cut-off date from Aug. 1 to Nov. 1.

Schools across the state are losing hundreds of thousands of dollars in state money because they let 4-year-olds with birthdays after Aug. 1 into kindergarten this fall.

“The point is move it back to around count date to capture more kids who are clearly ready. That will still be a parent’s decision,”McCormick explained.

McCormick also noted something she found: “We are desperately losing 1-year to 5-year teachers at about 35 percent. That is scary, and alarming and everybody should be concerned.”

On Monday, some state lawmakers weighed in on the priorities.

“Some of the topics that Superintendent McCormick discussed this morning are issues that Senate Democrats have long been championing so I am encouraged to see that kind of support come from her office,” State Sen. Karen Tallian, a Democrat from Portage, said Monday in a statement.

“Most notably, I agree with her dedication to ensuring all schools that receive public dollars should be required to treat their students, teachers and faculty with respect and equality. This is a proposal that members of the Senate Democratic Caucus have also chosen to bring in 2019. The treatment that a school counselor at Roncalli High School received is jarring and should never happen again,” Tallian said.

To learn more and read the priorities in detail for yourself, click here, for the Department of Education’s legislative priorities information.

McCormick on Monday also announced she was not seeking re-election. She said the government system at the statehouse “is complicated.”

She has two years left in her four-year term.

McCormick said she spoke with Gov. Eric Holcomb on Monday about her decision. 

“Dr. McCormick and I spoke about her decision not to seek the office of state superintendent again in 2020, and her legislative priorities for the next two years. I reminded her that we have more time left in this term than we’ve been here, and there’s still plenty to be accomplished,” Holcomb said on Monday.

“Dr. McCormick has given me a lot to digest as I dig into her legislative priorities. I thanked her and told her today I appreciate and respect her lifetime devotion to children and education, and that we’ll take the steps necessary to ensure Indiana has the best team working together to provide the highest quality education for children,” Holcomb continued. 

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