Indiana governor candidates discuss plans for education

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INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana’s candidates for governor have different views on how they would fund education moving forward.

Last November, thousands of teachers packed the statehouse demanding change.

We looked into how each person running for governor plans to provide it.

“Anyone who says we need to just throw more money at it is not looking at the whole picture,” said Indiana Republican incumbent Governor Eric Holcomb.

He said Indiana has moved north of $1.6 billion additional dollars into education. It already accounts for more than half of the state’s overall budget and Holcomb has assigned a commission to look for sustainable ways to increase teacher pay.

“I want us to be best in the Midwest,” said Holcomb. “For someone to say ‘we need to do more’, we’re doing that.”

Democratic candidate for governor Dr. Woody Myers said he would do more and fast.

“As governor, I’m going to prioritize getting the teacher salaries up,” said Myers. “You know, there’s a commission that my opponent refers to that’s going to issue a report quite conveniently after the election, they’ve been working on this for two years.”

Libertarian Donald Rainwater said he wants to reduce the size and scope of the State Department of Education and leave decision-making power to the locals. He wants to abolish standardized testing, saying ISTEP and ILEARN haven’t worked out for Indiana.

“It is the citizens of the state of Indiana who should decide whether they want statewide standardized testing, not the federal government,” said Rainwater.

Dr. Myers said he’ll leave standardized testing decisions to those he appoints to fix that issue.

“They’re going to look at what is working in other states, I mean we have made two big mistakes in a row, ISTEP and ILEARN. Well let’s not make a third one. Let’s figure it out, let’s look at the data and then let them advise me on the right way to go,” said Myers.

Myers believes the state should free up money by reconsidering school voucher programs for parents looking to send their kids elsewhere.

“If that’s what they want to do, that’s fine, but why should the taxpayer have to pay for that decision?” said Myers. “That’s what’s wrong about it. And I just think we need to prioritize the funding of public education.”

“I think parents are speaking, I think some schools are better for their children than others,” said Holcomb. “I think these different venues can compliment and are complimenting one another.”

“I do not believe in doing away with vouchers,” said Rainwater. “I believe we need to look at the money that we are spending on education that isn’t going to the classroom and make the department of education justify that money.”

Myers also added he wants the state to rethink virtual schools.

“Stop wasting money, it drives me nuts the money that we waste in Indiana,” said Myers. “Look at the Indiana virtual schools, we spent $68 million dollars and no one was watching as they stole the money it’s under criminal investigation now.”

“It’s hard in hindsight to prevent a criminal from committing a crime,” responded Holcomb. “What they did was wrong and they will be held accountable.”

Rainwater said Indiana needs to take politics out of education. “Politically, we judge how well we are doing on education by how many young people go to college, and I think that is just a terrible disservice,” said Rainwater. “Over-politicizing education, which I believe we’ve done for quite awhile here in Indiana, needs to stop. And we need to have that line-item by line-item honest, critical conversation about what are we spending? Is it actually education?”

Next week, we will highlight these candidates’ plans for justice reform and equality.

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