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Indiana schools chief will not run for re-election in 2020

Jennifer McCormick, the Republican state superintendent of public instruction, announces Oct. 1, 2018, that she will not run for re-election in 2020. If House Bill 1005 becomes law, McCormick will be the last elected state schools chief. It provides for a governor-appointed secretary of education beginning in 2021.

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Senate could vote as soon as next week to make 2021 the year Indiana's state superintendent of public instruction is chosen by the governor instead of elected by Hoosier voters.

The state superintendent leads the state agency that oversees the spending of 50 percent of Indiana's annual tax revenue.

House Bill 1005 would replace the elected state superintendent of public instruction with a governor-appointed secretary of education to manage the Indiana Department of Education starting in 2021, instead of 2025 as required under current law.

The Senate Education Committee voted 5-3 Wednesday to forward the House-approved 2021 start date proposal to the full chamber.

House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, the sponsor of the measure, said after the incumbent state schools chief, Republican Jennifer McCormick, announced last year that she will not run for re-election in 2020, it just made sense to move up the start date for the change to an appointed education secretary, which originally was authorized by the Republican-controlled Legislature in 2017.

If the Senate approves the legislation without changes, it then will advance to Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb who has promised to sign it into law.

State Sen. Eddie Melton, D-Gary, one of the committee members opposing the measure, said the qualifications required for the secretary of education are insufficient because they don't mandate the appointee have actual classroom experience.

"Allowing someone with a background as an 'executive in the field of education' to be appointed, to me that's a very broad term," Melton said.

"The term ... is ambiguous and implies a business background, instead of an education background, and could include organizations that may not be more apt to help guide and direct public education."

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Statehouse Bureau Chief

Dan is Statehouse Bureau Chief for The Times. Since 2009, he's reported on Indiana government and politics — and how both impact the Region — from the state capital in Indianapolis. He originally is from Orland Park, Ill.