Democratic state Senate candidate voices education budget concerns

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) As we head into the new school year, a local Democratic state Senate candidate has some concerns about the way Republicans have been handling the issue of education the past few years.

Jack Morris and a local candidate for a state House seat, Thad Gerardot, held a news conference Wednesday to express their concerns and offer some solutions.

Morris said our state’s education system has been short-changed for the past several years.

If elected, he has some solutions in mind. The first starts before the students even set foot into kindergarten.

Morris wants universal prekindergarten education, a fully funded public school system and an increase in teachers’ wages. He said that would not only prepare them, but it would make education more affordable because it’ll be more efficient.

Governor Mike Pence announced a pilot prekindergarten program last week in five Indiana counties, including Allen.

Based on how it does, leaders could look at starting a program statewide in the future.

However, according to Morris, that should already be in effect.

He said if we have early universal childhood programs, students would be able to read before third grade.

“If they don’t learn the reading level by 3rd grade, thereafter they don’t teach reading anymore and so they continue to fall behind in everything and so the goal is if we get kids on early childhood education, we can bring them up to that level and then every teacher thereafter will be relieved of that remedial education that’s having to be done right now,” said Morris.

However, Tim Berry, Chairman for the Indiana Republican Party said the state doesn’t want to get ahead of itself.

“The idea is let’s start at the very beginning. Let’s start and see before we got and allocate dollars before we go and create programs, let’s create a pilot,” said Berry.

Morris also argued that the state is taking public funds and giving them to families and those families can then use vouchers to attend private schools. Morris opposes the vouchers.

“Those funds that were lost to public education weren’t returned to public education and yet, they’re still expected to deal with all kids in the same way and it’s handicapping education, their ability to respond,” said Morris.

However, based on several factors, including the ISTEP results released this week, Berry said the state is doing well.

“Over 50 percent of our state budget is dedicated towards education and in the last budget, the largest number of dollars were given towards education in Indiana’s history, unprecedented support and unprecedented growth in scores from our students as a result of the education reform,” said Berry.

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