By Adrianna Pitrelli
INDIANAPOLIS — The first debate between the three candidates for governor ended up showing off the similarities between Democrat John Gregg, Republican Eric Holcomb and Libertarian Rex Bell rather than the differences.
As they spoke before an audience of students, teachers and administrators at Lawrence North High School Tuesday, the candidates were polite, but rarely rebutted or addressed the other candidates answers or policies.
Democrat John Gregg stayed calm during the first of three gubernatorial debates. Gregg said he wants the state to implement a standardized test with faster results. Photo by Adrianna Pitrelli, TheStatehouseFile.com.
The candidates answered questions from students and the moderator, Laura Merrifield Albright, University of Indianapolis assistant professor of political science, about standardized testing, higher education and the teacher shortage.
The three candidates all agreed with the legislature’s decision to get rid of ISTEP.
“We need to replace it with a test that is fair and accurate,” Holcomb said. “We need to have a way of measuring what they know and need to know.”
Under ISTEP, students take the standardized test in the spring, but do not get the results back until the fall. Because of this, teachers and parents cannot use the results to help determine if a student should advance to the next grade level.
All three also want ISTEP to be replaced with a test that provides faster results.
“We need to have a better way, where you can take the test and you get feedback much quicker,” Gregg said.
For students who want to further their education beyond high school, Gregg and Bell want to drop the price of tuition, but they have different approaches.
Liberterian Rex Bell said the federal government needs to move away from assisting with tuition. Bell said he believes he can do better than freezing tuition, rather he can lower tution. Photo by Adrianna Pitrelli, TheStatehouseFile.com
“We can lower tuition from where it stands now because of the federal government involvement with the loans has encouraged a lot of college to raise their prices,” Bell said.
According to Bell, if the government does not offer as much funding, colleges and universities will not expect as much money and therefore will not continuously raise prices.
Gregg, however, wants to incentives for colleges and universities to seek more financial aid.
As for Holcomb, he said he is committed to Indiana’s “world-class universities and colleges” but didn’t share specifics as to what he would do.
The candidates were also asked to address the teacher storage. According to Holcomb, that shortage is not just in Indiana, but across the country with a need for 60,000 more educators.
While all three argued teachers deserve more respect, Gregg sees the shortage as a state issue.
“The first thing we need to realize and admit is we created this teacher shortage,” Gregg said.
Gregg said the state needs to stop treating teachers like the problem and students and parents need to stop disrespecting teachers. He cited the lack of salary increases and the job demands leading to less people wanting to become a teacher.
Republican Eric Holcomb addresses what he says is a need for students to respect teachers. Holcomb said with more respect comes more desire for people to want to teach. Photo by Adrianna Pitrelli, TheStatehouseFile.com
But Bell wants local school boards to have more say in what goes on in their school systems. According to Bell, giving school boards more say would allow them to choose how to distribute their funds, allowing for higher salary for teachers.
“More people would want to teach if we turn the control back over to the local boards, back over to the parents and back over to the teachers,” Bell said.
After the debate, Gregg said the three candidates should be applauded for having such a civil discussion.
“There can be disagreements but there is no need to get into an argument,” he said. “Hurling insults at Mr. Bell or Mr. Holcomb either one is not going to help us learn better or help a family find a better job.”
Tuesday was the first of three debates. The candidates will go head-to-head again at 7 p.m. on Oct. 3 at the University of Indianapolis to discuss jobs and the economy.
Adrianna Pitrelli is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.