IN Focus: Sec. of State, former state superintendent discuss heated school board meetings, potential for partisan elections

Regional News

INDIANAPOLIS – With school board meetings turning into contentious debates between officials and some groups of parents, classrooms have become a focal point in the nation’s recovery from the pandemic, and a flashpoint in the broader culture wars that have led to increased polarization in our nation’s politics.

Similar issues surrounding education became a major issue in the race for governor in Virginia.

In a recent interview, former state superintendent Dr. Jennifer McCormick told IN Focus that she believes much of the outrage is coming at a national level, overshadowing the real concerns of Indiana’s schools. She believes this misunderstanding of issues has led to heightened rhetoric, threatening the safety of educators and school officials.

“When things get to the point where people’s safety is at risk, or there’s such disruption to the school system itself, it becomes a problem,” Dr. McCormick said, while praising districts that have taken action against disorderly meetings, such as the boards of Carmel Clay and Center Grove Schools.

“As a local superintendent at one point, I know you have to preserve the safety of your employees, the safety of your board, and also try to get those disruptions minimized,” McCormick said. “Because you owe it to the kids to get down to the real business at hand.”

McCormick recently switched parties, after being elected state superintendent as a Republican in 2016, she is now considering a run for governor as a Democrat in 2024.

But soon, political parties may also be part of the equation in local board races as well.

Currently, school board members do not run as part of a specific political party. However, that may change after the upcoming legislative session, with a new push to implement party-line elections for school board races in Indiana.

Last week, we asked Indiana Secretary of State Holli Sullivan if she would support such a move.

“That’s a legislative change, and our office doesn’t legislate,” Sec. Sullivan said. “I am not a policy-maker, but our office would enact any policy that comes out of the legislature next year.”

Indiana officials work to inform voters about election security

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