Local elections result in education changes

IUS Horizon

The recent changes in state elections could have a large impact on the IUS campus, as well as the state of Indiana for future years.

New Superintendent of Public Instruction

While Nov. 6 marked re-election for President Barack Obama, local Indiana elections also resulted in Democrat Glenda Ritz beating out Tony Bennett, Republican incumbent, in the race for superintendent of public instruction by capturing 52 percent of the vote.

Gloria Murray, dean of the School of Education, said she believes this change is something that could revitalize the interest in pursuing a teaching career among students at IU Southeast.

“So many potential teacher candidates were concerned about the changes that were occurring in the teaching field, such as the high stakes testing that tied to teacher pay,” Murray said.

Murray said some of the rules Ritz is looking into includes REPALL rules — Rules for Educator Preparation and Accountability. Murray said these rules lower the standards for teacher preparation.

“If you want schools to excel, then you need teachers and school leaders who are prepared to support schools,” Murray said, “not teachers or principals who received their license because they were good test takers.”

According to her website, ritz4ed.com, Ritz said she  plans on ending the education reforms Bennett implemented, including revamped teacher evaluations and state control of struggling schools, as well as eliminating Bennett’s plan for a new statewide curriculum and the replacement of ISTEP testing.

“Education is about people, and you must consider how to bring people along with your ideas of change,” Murray said, “and I think people did not feel that under the former superintendent.”

Ritz would also do away with the current letter grading system, which she said she believes has a detrimental effect on districts whose schools are described as failing.

Murray said this was a lesson to all IUS students.

“It proves that, if you really believe in something, you should stand up for what you believe,” Murray said.

Reformation of Marijuana Laws

Voters in both Colorado and Washington made history by passing new ballot initiatives on Election Day, legalizing the use of marijuana for sale and recreational purposes.

Since then, Indiana State Sen. Karen Tallian has decided to sponsor a bill administering the Criminal Law and Sentencing Study Committee to investigate and make suggestions about marijuana laws in Indiana.

Joseph Wert, dean of the School of Social Sciences, said it would help IU Southeast’s budget matters.

“We can regulate it, we can tax it, and it would bring more revenue to the state of Indiana,” Wert said.

Tallian’s bill would instruct the study committee to focus on whether marijuana possession and use should remain illegal in Indiana, and, if so, what punishment is appropriate. It would also focus on the effects of marijuana possession on Indiana’s criminal justice system.

Jake Miller, journalism sophomore, said he thinks it will be hard to get those opposed to marijuana to see its benefits.

“Sometimes, it’s hard to break an old way of thinking simply because it’s out of their comfort zone,” Miller said. “It’s a natural medicine, and the government would be foolish not to take advantage of it.”

Current Indiana law states possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana is cause for up to a year in jail. Those with more than 30 grams in their possession face a sentencing of up to three years in jail.

Wert said he personally does not see Indiana reforming its marijuana laws.

“I think we are too conservative of a state to see that pass,” Wert said.

Wert said he also does not believe the campus would be affected if Indiana reformed its marijuana laws.

“If it’s decriminalized, I’m guessing you may see an increase in use, but it would still be illegal here on campus because we’re a tobacco free campus,” Wert said.