Jennifer McCormick, Indiana's last elected superintendent of public instruction, surprised few observers when she confirmed in June that she was switching her party affiliation from Republican to Democratic. Elected in 2016, she was only months into her job when McCormick began to publicly question GOP colleagues' support for public education.
She joined Democratic state Sen. Eddie Melton on a statewide listening tour two years ago and in 2020 announced she would remain at the Department of Education if Democrat Dr. Woody Myers was elected governor and won the right to appoint the first Indiana secretary of education. McCormick joined high-profile Indiana Democrats earlier this year as they toured the state to draw attention to benefits of the American Rescue Plan Act, which was approved without support from any Republican in the state's congressional delegation.
But McCormick isn't the only top education leader to switch sides this year. Oklahoma State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister announced last week she is switching her party affiliation from Republican to Democrat. She also announced she will challenge GOP incumbent Gov. Kevin Stitt in next year's gubernatorial election.
“I am changing parties to run as a Democrat and that is because I also believe in the values of supporting public education, supporting quality and good access to health care, as well as rural infrastructure,” Hofmeister told the Tulsa World in an interview.
In June, McCormick sounded a similar theme in remarks to the Times of Northwest Indiana.
“I know there are Republican voters across Indiana who believe in the ideas to fully fund our public schools and provide our educators the quality of life they deserve, but I have some advice for them: it'll be the Indiana Democrats – not Republican elected officials – who'll get it done,” McCormick said, noting the $2 billion Indiana schools will receive in federal funds under the American Rescue Plan and the state funds supporting teacher pay hikes that would not have been available without federal aid.