School funding and standardized testing is at the top of the list of concerns among local teachers and the candidates for Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction. 

The two candidates, Democrat incumbent Glenda Ritz and Republican Jennifer McCormick, discussed their campaigns and current education issues in a town hall-style event at the Ball State Alumni Center Oct. 18.

Local teachers and administrators from the Muncie area attended the event.

The election is Nov. 8. The superintendent for public instruction and other state and federal candidates who win will assume office for a new term in January 2017.

Funding for schools was discussed at length by the two candidates and was the focus of many audience questions.

McCormick, who is the current superintendent at Yorktown Community Schools, talked about the funding issues she has faced firsthand.

“I know at Yorktown I have to replace my buses and that’s very difficult to do when I don’t have any money in that fund,” McCormick said. “So I have to go to my general fund, which I would typically pay teachers out of, so who do you think is getting impacted?”

Ritz, who is the current Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction, took aim at current governor Mike Pence for refusing to sign a federal grant that would have given $80 million to help start a preschool program.

“We wrote the grant and on the day it was due I expected his signature … instead we got an email that said [Pence] was not going to take the federal money,” Ritz said. “So here’s what Indiana got instead … we have 84,000 4-year-olds and what we got was a pilot program that affects a grand total of 1,500 children.”

Both candidates also addressed the issue of the Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress (ISTEP) test, which has been contested by Hoosiers and lawmakers alike.

Ritz is a strong proponent of ending the standardized test and wants to spend “less time teaching and more time learning.”

ISTEP has been administered in Indiana ever since 1987. Over the last three years, scores have been low all across the board. 

McCormick said she would replace ISTEP with another standardized test to encompass all reading, language arts and math. She does agree that there needs to be a balance system in Indiana.

“After four years of working with the General Assembly, we are going to end the ISTEP test and I could not be more excited about that,” Ritz said.

McCormick talked about her plan to develop a menu of assessments from which schools can choose which ones they want to give.

“I am not anti-assessment. I am anti-assessment that is a waste of time and I am anti-assessment that is too long,” McCormick said.