The Journal Gazette
Friday, October 23, 2020 1:00 am

Candidates give picks for education post

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – Fort Wayne college instructor Dawn Wooten would be secretary of education if Libertarian Donald Rainwater is elected governor, he announced Thursday.

Meanwhile, Democrat Dr. Woody Myers' choice – current Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick – also spoke with reporters.

Ironically Wooten and McCormick faced off in the 2016 GOP primary for the education post, and McCormick won easily.

Rainwater said together with Wooten he will work to decentralize and depoliticize Hoosier education and return the decision-making power back to Hoosier parents, teachers, school boards and administrators.

Wooten said she hopes Hoosiers vote for “fundamental change” and that the legislature should never have changed the job to appointed.

She also took McCormick to task, saying her tenure has been a lot of inaction.

“She did not work with the legislature well and that is where things get done,” Wooten said. “Another four years in her administration would not be good for children or teachers.”

Wooten teaches at Indiana Tech and Purdue Fort Wayne, and has a freelance editing business. She also believes there are ways to cut the education budget so that the state doesn't have to give standardized tests required by the federal government.

McCormick on Thursday said she agreed to serve if Myers is elected because “I know how important it is to have continuity in (the Department of Education). This is one less interruption in the lives of students and educators.”

In 2018 she announced she would not seek reelection and blamed the structure of how education is handled in state government. Essentially the office has little power as lawmakers moved duties to the State Board of Education.

She said the supermajority that Republicans have in the legislature could be broken this year and if Myers is elected he would have appointments to the state board, which “would look very different.”

McCormick also said she wants to stay on to fight for competitive pay for teachers. She acknowledged lawmakers provided new dollars but said Indiana is still trying to catch up from a cut in 2009.

“We are woefully underfunded – it isn't adequate or equitable,” she said.

McCormick also said she focuses on the person and policy above politics when asked if she is still a Republican. She previously voted for Democrats and has endorsed several Democrats this year.

“I just don't get hung up on the political affiliation,” she said.

Wooten ran as a Republican before and was backed by the tea party. But she said she aligns more now with the Libertarian philosophy.

Sign up for our Statehouse Scoop newsletter

Sent each Monday