Just one hurdle remains before the process to pick Indiana’s schools chief sees a major change going forward: approval by the person whose successor would get to make the pick.
Gov. Eric Holcomb is expected to sign a bill that switches the state superintendent from an elected position to an appointed position, after the Indiana House voted Tuesday to agree with changes made by the Senate to the original proposal. That proposal was a major part of Holcomb’s legislative agenda.
The changes introduce a residency requirement and qualifications for the position, as well as delays the appointment until 2025.
The House approved House Bill 1005 by a 66-31 vote. House Speaker Brian Bosma, the bill’s author, said that while he preferred the original bill — where appointment would have began in 2021 and no constraints would be put on the superintendent candidate — he understood why the Senate made the changes it did.
“It’s the right policy,” Bosma said. “Now is the planning time for those who would seek the office.”
Bosma said current state Superintendent Jennifer McCormick didn’t fully support the 2021 start date because the prospect of jobs disappearing with a leadership change in a few years could affect her ability to hire a “strong staff” at the education department now. The change to a 2025 start date would allow her to seek a second term.
The new bill also introduces qualifications for the position. In addition to living in Indiana for at least two years prior to an appointment, the secretary of education candidate would also be required to:
- Demonstrate “personal and professional leadership success, preferably in the administration of public education.”
- Have an advanced degree, preferably in education or educational administration.
- Hold, or have previously held, a license to be a teacher, principal of superintendent, or otherwise be employed as such for at least five years before taking office.
- Have five years of working experience as an executive in the education field.
Rep. Ed DeLaney, a Democrat from Indianapolis, co-authored the bill to make the superintendent position appointed. But he ultimately voted against it, along with most House Democrats and three Republicans. He said he was concerned about pushing the timeline back and putting the qualifications in place. He also wondered if lawmakers wouldn’t just come back next year and change the start date anyway.
“If we need to have an appointed superintendent, we need it now, not four years from now,” DeLaney said. “We’re tying the hands of a governor eight years in the future.”
For background, check out these Chalkbeat stories:
- Crucial step taken in push to strip statewide vote on future Indiana schools chiefs