INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Democratic candidate for Indiana governor is trying to spur support in the last days of the campaign by highlighting the state schools superintendent position that isn’t being decided by voters for the first time in more than a century.
Woody Myers, a physician and former state health commissioner who is challenging Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb’s reelection bid, announced during Tuesday’s gubernatorial debate that he plans to appoint current state schools Superintendent Jennifer McCormick to lead the state education department if he’s elected.
Under new state law, the state schools chief is no longer on the ballot. Instead, a secretary of education — largely charged with implementing and administering policy — will be appointed by the governor, bringing a new emphasis on education to the governor’s race.
Myers said during a news conference Thursday that “the dire situation for Indiana teachers” has created a need for an education secretary “who will put Indiana teachers, kids and schools back on the right track.” McCormick, he continued, “already knows” how to do the job.
The switch to a governor-appointed state education secretary was originally approved by Indiana’s General Assembly, with a planned start date of 2025. Lawmakers filed legislation last year to move the change up to 2021, however, after McCormick announced that she would not seek a second term in 2020.
McCormick said Thursday she switched her position and accepted the tap from Myers to ensure “continuity” within the state’s education department, especially amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Her “outrage” over “woefully underfunded” teachers and schools across the state also influenced her desire to remain in office, she said.
“I know how difficult my position is,” McCormick said. “It’s also frustrating what’s happening regarding public education, and some of the policy-heavy ways Indiana is approaching K-12.”
McCormick’s recent endorsements of Democrats laid bare her split from Holcomb and GOP legislative leaders since she was elected to be state schools superintendent in 2016 with Republican Party support. She has disagreed with Republican legislators on several education issues including the use of standardized testing to rate schools and teachers, and her support for increased scrutiny of charter and voucher schools that receive state money.
After McCormick endorsed Myers for governor last month, a state Republican spokesman said it was “not surprising that a Democrat is endorsing a Democrat.”
McCormick said Thursday her endorsements are an attempt to help break the Republican supermajority in the Indiana legislature. Her hope, she