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McCormick Could Be Indiana's Last Elected Superintendent

House panel votes to make it an appointed job in 2021, four years ahead of schedule

(INDIANAPOLIS) - The job of state school superintendent will soon be appointed, not elected -- and maybe sooner than anticipated.

The House Education Committee has voted to let whoever's elected governor next year appoint the superintendent. That change was already scheduled to take place in 2025. But with Superintendent Jennifer McCormick not running again, Governor Holcomb wants to move up the change to when her term expires two years from now.

Institute for Quality Education vice president Caitlin Bell says with superintendent Jennifer McCormick not running, there's no reason to wait. She says allowing the next governor to appoint an education secretary the same way he appoints other agency heads would streamline the process, and eliminate the infighting which has plagued the office for several years. McCormick pointed to those turf battles with the State Board of Education as her reason for not seeking a second term.

Teachers' unions opposed the change when it was passed two years ago and still do. AFT Indiana executive director Sally Sloan says voters are accustomed to having a voice in education policy at the local level, and deserve it at the state level as well. She's urging legislators to counterbalance the switch by making the State Board of Education an elected board. The governor currently appoints most of the board members.

Gary Democrat Vernon Smith agrees taking away voters' voice in education is a terrible idea, but he joined Republicans in voting for it. He says McCormick's exit means a replacement would have just four years before having the job taken away, and would create instability. McCormick will already be the third straight superintendent to depart after four years, following the election defeats of Tony Bennett and Glenda Ritz.

Holcomb and House Republicans originally wanted to begin appointing the superintendent in 2021 when they first began debating the change in 2017. They settled on 2025 after the Senate voted down that version.

The full House could vote on the change next week.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick (Photo: Eric Berman/WIBC)

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