By David McGuire
I was always enamored by politics. I am a part of the generation whose first opportunity to vote was during Barack Obama’s run for presidency in 2008. Like many young Americans, black or white, I followed the race religiously and I often found myself in debates defending what Obama stood for. It always helped that he was a black man running for the highest office in the land.
Fast forward four years and I was just beginning my career as a teacher when another election captured my attention. This race was on a smaller scale than that of the 2008 presidential election but for students, parents, and teachers across Indiana this race overshadowed the Gubernatorial race that year.
The race for Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction was between Glenda Ritz, the Democrat leader of the grassroots teacher movement, and the incumbent, Tony Bennett, a heavily favored Republican education reformer. Glenda Ritz went on to upset Tony Bennett in that race and became Superintendent of Public Instruction.
At the time I was new to the whole education reform movement and I voted for Ritz. I am a teacher by nature and by profession, and it was that same sentiment that propelled Glenda Ritz to the Superintendent seat in 2012.
However, had I known then what I know now, I would have voted for Tony Bennett because I believe in education reform and charter schools. It was in a charter school where I got my first teaching experience and it is in a charter school where I will be getting my first experience as a principal.
It is well known that Superintendent Ritz is not a fan of voucher programs or charter schools. The voucher program has helped thousands of underrepresented and underserved black children get out of previously failing schools and attend high achieving schools. In 2015 Superintendent Ritz and the Indiana Department of Education incorrectly allocated Title I money, which in turn reduced charter school funding.
However, Superintendent Ritz did unveil a plan to expand early childhood education to every 4 year old across the state, and I have to support her on that because I am huge fan of seeing children attend school at an earlier age.
The 2016 race for Superintendent of Public Instruction now puts Glenda Ritz in the role of incumbent facing off against Republican challenger Jennifer McCormick, superintendent of Yorktown Schools in Delaware County. .
GOP nominee Jennifer McCormick believes that the race for State Superintendent of Public Instruction needs to move away from politics.
She says the Department of Education’s organizational issues can be blamed on a focus on politics—and not our schools. McCormick believes schools and the department of education are disconnected and vows to end the battle that Ritz seems to be locked in with the State Board of Education and the Superintendent of Public Instruction.
McCormick also appears to have more experience as an educational leader than Ritz. She has been a teacher, school principal, assistant superintendent, and now superintendent.
I have not yet decided who I will vote for this year in the State Superintendent race, but I do know that I am not voting for a candidate simply because they are a Democrat or a Republican.
I am most interested in one major issue that neither candidate has spoken about on the record, and that is how are we going to increase the number of teachers of color in our schools. This is the one issue that I am most passionate about in education because I believe that having more teachers of color in our classrooms is instrumental to solving the disconnect that exists between many schools and minority communities.
I have sent a letter to both candidates requesting an opportunity to speak with them about this issue. I am waiting for a response from either to get their take on expanding efforts to recruit more teachers of color. That answer will go a long way in deciding in which direction I will vote.
Photo courtesy of Indy Star.