Jennifer McCormick won big over incumbent Glenda Ritz in Tuesday’s election for Indiana superintendent of public instruction. How did she do it? The explanation is simple:
McCormick ran as a Republican.
And running as a Republican was about all a candidate needed to do in this year of a massive GOP sweep in Indiana. Anyone with an R beside her or his name was likely to win.
That’s not to suggest McCormick wasn’t a good candidate. She ran a respectful, issue-focused campaign, and she may prove to be an excellent superintendent. She is an experienced educator. She has promised to keep politics out of the office, probably an impossible pledge to keep but a worthy objective.
But her victory wasn’t a mandate for policies or pledges. It was a function of Indiana turning bright red in the Year of Trump. Ritz, the darling of teachers’ unions and public-school advocates, didn’t have a chance. Neither did any other Democrat.
“I think it was a wave election for Trump that swept in the Republicans at all levels,” said Paul Helmke, a professor of practice at Indiana University and former mayor of Fort Wayne. “Even when Glenda Ritz was the incumbent and presumably still had the same support from teachers that she had four years ago, when there’s a big wave, there’s no way you survive in those situations.”
McCormick got 53.4 percent of the vote to Ritz’s 46.6 percent, according to unofficial figures. In the governor’s race, Republican Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb beat Democrat John Gregg by about the same margin – even though Gregg, a former House speaker, is smart, funny, Hoosier to the core and ran a strong campaign.
Trump got 57 percent of the Hoosier vote to Hillary Clinton’s 38 percent. In the only no-name state race, Republican Curtis Hill got 62.3 percent of the votes for attorney general. In Southern Indiana’s 9th Congressional District, Trey Hollingsworth, arguably the worst candidate Republicans could have chosen, smashed Shelli Yoder, who was the best candidate Democrats will ever find for the contest.
You could argue that Ritz and Gregg beat the spread.
The results were surprising, though. Recent polls showed Gregg and Ritz leading. GOP insiders looked to have written off the superintendent’s race; they didn’t try to keep up with Ritz in campaign fund-raising. House Speaker Brian Bosma and Education Committee chair Robert Behning seemed almost caught off guard when they discussed the outcome with WFYI’s Eric Weddle.
But mandate or not, congratulations to McCormick, and good luck. Let’s hope she advocates for public schools, rejects the fool’s gold of school choice and stands up to anti-public education legislators. May she hire strong professional staff, not the partisans who surrounded Tony Bennett, Ritz’s predecessor.
Before Bennett came along, Republican Suellen Reed who served four terms as a rigorously nonpartisan Indiana superintendent from 1993-2009. That’s a model McCormick would do well to emulate.
Great story and writing.
I wonder what JM thinks about Indiana dumbing down sub teacher requirements to a mere HS diploma? (NEA is lax in updating its website, so an HT reader corrected me via comment section.)
Did you catch yesterday’s HT Letter to Editor section?
Blame it on the ‘trick or treaters’!
To the editor:
What’s missing from the HT coverage of K-12 school issues and recent MCCSC school board election?
An honest discussion of “Why there’s still a substitute teacher shortage, even after DeMuth & Co. dropped applicant requirements from 60 college credit hours to 24 e.g. any IU freshman will do?”
(And how did MCCSC bypass the state’s apparent requirement of “two years of documented college coursework*?” I suggested via email the topic of substitute teacher compensation, training and recognition to the League of Women Voters, but no discussion took place at their school board candidate forum.)
A former MCCSC colleague stopped by on Halloween with her costumed kids, and she mentioned that her school still had trouble finding subs, which required assistant principals and office staff to don the ‘costume’ of substitute teacher.
Students during the course of their K-12 education will spend one year under the guidance of substitute teachers. There are talented people in this community — actors, artists, budding entrepreneurs, retired business men/women — who would embrace the role of substitute teacher if only MCCSC increased the pay closer to the national average of $105/day.
Talent has a price. Bemused babysitters or inspiring individuals?
*NEA state-by-state substitute teacher programs requirements: http://www.nea.org/home/14813.htm.
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