State superintendent candidate McCormick hesitant to support universal pre-K

By Rachel Hoffmeyer
TheStatehouseFile.com

INDIANAPOLIS — Despite the growing push for universal pre-K, Republican candidate for state superintendent of public instruction Jennifer McCormick is not ready to support the idea.

McCormick, the current superintendent of Yorktown Community Schools, revealed her hesitancy to launch a universal pre-K program in her plan for the Indiana Department of Education Wednesday.

Her opponent, incumbent Democrat Glenda Ritz, rolled out a plan for universal pre-K in June that calls for quality pre-K available for any family across the state by 2020. A coalition of businesses, including Eli Lilly, Cummins and PNC, have said they want to work with the legislature to expand access to pre-K.

McCormick is worried about how the universal program would be funded and sustained.

“Too many times in K-12 I’ve seen programs rolled out quickly and aggressively without a great plan,” she said. “And when that happens, it implodes and then the local levels are left to clean it up.”

Instead, she wants to start by focusing on the most at-risk students and then have a conversation about a long-term goal of expanding pre-K to all children.

Her proposals also include changes to teacher pay, accountability and testing.  One recommendation is revising performance pay, which gives teachers a bonus a strong teacher evaluation. McCormick argued that in some districts once pay for performance gets distributed, it may only be $100 per teacher.

“That’s not a big incentive,” she said.

McCormick is also looking to adjust the school accountability system from one letter grade to a report card. She wants to see schools give a letter grade in a variety of categories with the hope of giving a broader picture. She also proposed reducing assessment testing time to less than 1 percent of total instructional time.

Ritz’s campaign, however, called McCormick’s plan a political agenda.

“It’s nice to see that Dr. McCormick has finally made a policy announcement with less than seven weeks to go before Election Day,” Ritz’s Campaign Manager Annie Mansfield said in a statement. “Meanwhile, Superintendent Ritz has spent years working to get rid of ISTEP, offer high-quality pre-K to every parent and student who wants it.”

Rachel Hoffmeyer is the executive editor of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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