Former head of Indiana public schools talks education policy in South Bend

Published: Apr. 10, 2023 at 11:54 PM EDT
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - Indiana’s former top public schools official discussed the state of Hoosier education at a Monday night forum at the St. Joseph County Public Library.

Dr. Jennifer McCormick, who served as State Superintendent of Public Instruction from 2017 to 2021, titled her talk, “The Crisis of Indiana Education Policy: Saving Our Public Schools.”

“I’ve been behind the curtain. I’ve seen the Oz,” said McCormick.

Throughout the 90-minute discussion, McCormick relayed her thoughts and statistics on graduation rates, charter schools, fiscal transparency, and the impact of political rhetoric on the perception of the public school system.

McCormick told 16 News Now the purpose of the forum was to educate people about the complexity of factors that can affect the vitality of public schools.

“Just to understand it’s complex, and they have to continue to be educated on the system as a whole - and also to celebrate the good work of our educators. It’s an incredibly difficult job and making sure that we’re knowing the difference between the political rhetoric that’s attacking our educators and what’s happening in that classroom and the reality, so, hoping to get that point across, which I think this evening we did,” McCormick said.

Some South Bend residents relayed their concerns about the current state of education.

“We’re worried that the good education our child got isn’t maybe guaranteed to be there for the rest of, for the rest of the state, for the rest of the time,” said Patricia Balanchette, whose daughter attended South Bend Community Schools through 12th grade.

Marilyn, of South Bend, added: “Are we helping kids to think? Or are we taking that away from the children? So I’m concerned about the whole issue regarding education today.”

McCormick addressed questions on if the forum coincided with any perception of possibly campaigning for governor after filing to form an exploratory committee last fall.

“I’ve been across the state, doing a lot of education forums. I think it’s incredibly important to inform citizens on how the system works because it’s incredibly complex, so that’s what tonight was about. And this isn’t my first stop or my last stop. But I’ve been doing this for over a year. Even before I had an exploratory [committee], we were going across to communities and just making sure people had information so they could go share information,” McCormick responded.

She told forum attendees the soonest she would make any announcement is after April 29th when the 2023 legislative session adjourns for the Indiana General Assembly.

In 2021, McCormick changed her party affiliation to Democrat after winning the 2016 race for state superintendent of public schools as a Republican.

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