INDIANAPOLIS — Two Indiana gubernatorial candidates announced their picks for the state’s secretary of education seat Thursday, a position that will be appointed by the governor for the first time in Indiana history in January.
Circling back to his promise at the first gubernatorial debate Tuesday, Democrat and former Indiana state health commissioner Dr. Woody Myers confirmed he would again appoint current Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick to lead the department of education.
Libertarian governor candidate Donald Rainwater, an information technology consultant from Westfield, also announced Thursday he will appoint Dawn Wooten as his education secretary if elected. He underscored his announcement by disagreeing with lawmakers’ 2019 decision to make the position appointed in the first place.
Wooten ran for the state superintendent seat in 2016 as a Republican and lost the nomination to McCormick at the Republican state convention. McCormick went on to defeat Glenda Ritz, the Democratic incumbent. In the years since, Wooten has served as an adjunct professor Indiana University-Purdue University in Fort Wayne and operated a freelance editing and writing business.
Dawn Wooten, who ran for superintendent of public instruction in 2016, has signed on to be Libertarian Donald Rainwater’s secretary of education should he be elected. TheStatehouseFile.com
Wooten and Rainwater argued Indiana’s education system needs to better support the needs of families and students. The pair proposed removing national Common Core standards from Indiana learning and ending standardized testing as two ways to help with this. They also argued teachers shouldn’t be judged effective or ineffective by the state, saying that should be left to local communities.
Like Rainwater, Wooten is interested in reducing the role of government in education and spending on “unnecessary programs.” To achieve this, Wooten said she would consider reducing the size of the state department of education, for one, and removing several round tables meant to discuss education issues that were established under McCormick. She said excising “fluff and bloat” from the state education budget — more than half of the entire state’s two-year budget — is key to better supporting schools and educators.
“There’s much work to be done,” Wooten said. “And a Donald Rainwater administration will give you, the people, the voice in the Indiana Statehouse.”
Wooten also criticized McCormick’s track record in the office, arguing McCormick doesn’t work effectively with others in the Statehouse.
“I think her reappointment would simply sentence our children to more teaching to the test, our teachers to more stalls on raising their pay, and just a whole lot of inaction,” Wooten said. “Jennifer did not work with the legislature well, and that’s where things get done.”
Both McCormick and Wooten explained party affiliation is not something that matters to their perspectives on education, emphasizing their desire to put people over politics and party affiliation. McCormick, for one, identifies as a Republican but has for the last year supported major Democratic politicians. She joined Sen. Eddie Melton, D-Gary, on a listening tour in 2019 as he explored a run for governor.
Incumbent Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb has yet to announce who he would appoint if elected. Holcomb advocated in 2017 for the secretary of education seat to move to an appointed position and signed the change into law in 2019.