NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: Education of our children in Indiana should not be a partisan issue

Indiana’s superintendent of public instruction, Jennifer McCormick, announced Monday she will not seek a second term, and after something else she announced on the same day, we suspect that may be a good thing.

McCormick has repeatedly called for the state to heavily regulate private and charter schools that take vouchers. Monday she said any school that takes public money should be an inclusive place for LGBT students and staff. Her comments were likely directed at Indianapolis Roncalli High School that has received more than $6.5 million in public money in the past five years, thanks to the voucher program.

Roncalli is a Catholic school that has been criticized for placing a guidance counselor on administrative leave due to her same-sex marriage.

“If our goal in the state is to develop a well-educated workforce and we want businesses to come here because we are inclusive, we are accepting, I think part of that goes to our actions,” McCormick said Monday, “and when we still have schools that receive taxpayer dollars that can exclude students, that’s a problem.”

McCormick says she’d also like to see that policy extended to employment practices.

But our view is that private schools must not be forced to go against their core beliefs in hiring staff members.

As Micah Clark, executive director of the American Family Association of Indiana, wrote this week, “If the choice is to follow what the Bible clearly states about homosexuality as a sin, or to take money offered to you by the government, dozens upon dozens of private schools will exit the program. That would send a deathblow to the nation’s largest school choice program. It would harm thousands of families who are very happy with the program and the opportunities it provides their children to attend private schools that fit their values and academic needs.”

McCormick was chosen by the Indiana Republican Party as the nominee to run against incumbent Democrat Glenda Ritz in the 2016 election. She and Ritz had one debate that was held in Fort Wayne on Oct. 17 that year.

In Monday’s press conference McCormick blamed the state’s governance structure for her decision not to seek re-election. So she only plans to continue in her position till the end of her term in 2020.

In 2017, because of contention between Ritz and then-Gov. Mike Pence, state leaders voted to make the state schools chief an appointed position in 2025. With McCormick’s announcement not to seek a second term, lawmakers are likely to move that date up.

Since her stunning election victory over Ritz, some believe McCormick’s policy views have proved to be more like her predecessor’s than of the champions of school choice who supported her. While she campaigned along party lines, she and her fellow Republicans have since clashed on issues beyond just private school vouchers, such as early education and how the state rates schools.

Although we agree with McCormick in principle that the education of our children in Indiana should not be a partisan issue, we believe policies should reflect the core beliefs of the majority of voters who elect officials into office to support those beliefs. Perhaps the coming policy of appointing our education chiefs in the future will more effectively facilitate that goal.