After the candidates introduced themselves, each speaking briefly on school systems and education, a question from an audience member was asked -- "If schools are so great, why did ISU tell us how unprepared our students are?"
District 46 candidate Jim Mann (D) said the state changed the process a few years ago to where they were rewarding any admission at all. ISU lowered their admission standards, according to Mann, who said the state is now rewarding for retainment.
"ISU allowed in students who otherwise wouldn't be allowed in," Mann said. "I believe the state needs to have a three- or five-year plan to see how programs are going to work."
"I think the opportunities are there for those individuals who are valuing what is being offered within those schools," Mann continued. "It would be interesting to see which parts of Indiana somebody's going to be making reference to not being qualified. When you look at the District 46 numbers, they are pretty impressive."
District 42 candidate Mark Spelbring (D) disagreed with the premise of the question.
"I didn't say schools are great," he said. "I think they are doing a good job, but I think they do need some reform. I think the problem is they've used one privatization type of model, and I don't think that's the type of direction to go. We need to make some improvements in education, but the way to do that is to help improve what you have and not throw it out and start over completely."
District 46 candidate Larry Barker (D) said there are three things on citizen's minds -- jobs, funding of education and having their voices heard. He said jobs and education go hand-in-hand. He disagreed with money coming from public schools to go toward charter schools.
"Mine and your taxpayer money is going up north," Barker said. "Not here. Our money up there, not here. The first piece of legislation I want to do in the statehouse is bring school money back."
Current District 46 State Representative Bob Heaton (R), who is running for re-election, spoke about charter schools.
"Charter schools, in this country, started 21 years ago," Heaton said. "In the state of Indiana, charter schools have been here for 11 years. They've been around for quite some time. We now have about 63 charter schools in Indiana."
He said there are no charter schools in District 46; however, he believes there is a purpose for the schools. He talked about certain neighborhoods where students need a better school to attend in order to get the education they deserve.
"I didn't take an oath that says 'I'm just going to represent the people in District 46 and that's it.' We're all in this thing together," Heaton said. "We've got a good set up in West Central Indiana, but some parts of the state it's not that way. If we don't get these kids educated, they are going to go down another path, and they are going to end up in maybe prison. We the taxpayers are going to pay $33,000 a year for them as inmates in prison. We need to do all we can to help these kids no matter if they are on this side of the tracks or that side of the tracks."
District 42 candidate Alan Morrison (R) said there are always going to be people in college who aren't prepared.
"We don't need everybody to go to college," he said. "We need people in the trades, and we need people doing the jobs that do not demand a college education. Obviously, we want the students who go to college to use that wisely and to get as good an education as possible."
Morrison said charter schools only attract students who feel they are not receiving the education they need or deserve at the school they attend. He said if the community opened a charter school across from Northview High School, as long as Northview is delivering an education to the students that are there, they aren't going to leave.
"Regardless of your race, your socio-economic background, your zip code or who your parents are, every single child in this state deserves a quality education," Morrison said. "If they and their family determine they are not getting it at the school they are currently in, they need to have a choice to go somewhere else."
Finally, District 42 candidate Jim Meece (R) gave his opinion on the issues.
"If a parent wants to take a child out of a failing school or out of a non-productive school or a school where they don't think their child is doing as well as they could, they can always do that. They've always had the option to do that," Meece said. "If I want to send my kid to a private school I've always had the option to do that, but I don't expect the taxpayers to pay for that. I expect the taxpayers to maintain the public school systems, so the public school systems can do what they need to do. I understand that some people don't have the economic ability to make that change. In those cases, I would be OK with helping with some type of voucher program, but the voucher program should not be funded by taking away from the schools."
Meece explained only upper level students are allowed to use the vouchers to attend private schools, so he said, of course, those schools are doing better. He also explained each student who leaves a public school to attend a private or charter school causes the public school's ratings to decrease.
The primary election is on Tuesday, May 8.