Jennifer McCormick, Indiana’s last elected state superintendent, has 20 months left in her term. She is a Republican, but she is different from the state leadership: She actually cares about students and democratic control of public education.

The Governor and the Legislature have decided that in the future, all power over education will be concentrated in one office: the Governor’s.

The state’s last elected superintendent of public instruction is not leaving office quietly. With just more than 20 months left in her four-year term, Jennifer McCormick is on a mission to warn Indiana voters of the immense power over education legislators just handed off to the governor’s office.

In a presentation to more than 100 parents and educators at Ivy Tech Community College’s Coliseum campus Thursday, the schools chief described the state’s current system of school governance, what it will become in 2021 and why Hoosiers should begin paying closer attention. 

“What we’re going to have is not the norm,” McCormick said, describing oversight of preschool education through higher education. “In most states, somewhere in here, beyond the governor’s office – is your voice. In most states, it’s either the state board (of education) is elected, or the state superintendent goes through confirmation by those who are elected, maybe in the state senate. Indiana will be very, very, very top-heavy in one office, with a lot of control.”

McCormick, a Republican, spent more than an hour highlighting policy differences between the Department of Education she now oversees and the governor’s office and like-minded education leaders in the General Assembly, beginning with views on school finance.

“I know it’s not all about the money, but it’s hard to operate school systems without adequate and equitable resources,” she said, citing numerous examples of funding proposals that shortchange public schools and a growing system of “haves and have-nots.”

She has a singular focus: What is in the best interest of the student.

She pointed out the disconnect between different leaders’ objectives. Gov. Mitch Daniel pushed to get every Indiana student prepared for a four-year college track, she said. Now, under the Holcomb administration, the push is for workforce certifications and two-year college programs… 

“We need to start saying our customer is not the workforce,” McCormick said to loud applause. “Our customer in K-12 is the child. You have to consider their ability, their passion.”

This is a very unusual point of view in Indiana, where the business leaders make the decision and the Governor expresses them. Educators are supposed to remain silent and do what they are told. Communities are supposed to relinquish local control and take orders from the Governor.

This is not democracy. This is not the way public schools are supposed to operate. The Hoosier state is turning into an autocracy where children are useful only as lon as they meet the needs of the workforce.