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District 26 Candidates Debate Schools, Mental Health

Charlotte Tuggle

One of the biggest issues in this year’s race for the Indiana House of Representatives District 26 seat may be how to improve the state’s education system.

In the first debate of the race Thursday, Democratic candidate Vicky Woeste said the state needs to reject what she calls the ALEC-driven education agenda, referring to the conservative group which drafts right-leaning legislation for statehouses across the country.

Woeste says she wants to restore public school funding, noting the West Lafayette School Corporation has asked for referendum funding due to cuts.

“And that will expire next year and we will have to do another referendum to keep funding our schools at current levels,” Woeste says. “So, without that funding, we would not be able to do what we’re doing in the west side schools.”

Woeste – who has been endorsed by teachers unions -- says although Tippecanoe County schools have been expanding and receiving more state funding, it’s not enough.

Her opponent, Republican county councilwoman Sally Siegrist, says K-through-12 education needs a reasonable metric for student progress.

She says she’s unsure if that should take the form of a standardized test, but says she’ll turn to educators for those answers.

Both are exploring ways to increase mental healthcare resources in Tippecanoe County.

Siegrist, who serves on the county council’s mental health task force, says she wants to expand mental health education programs around the state.

“Possibly take that curriculum from IUPUI and put it here – if that would happen, we would double the number of mental health care nurse practitioners that are produced every year,” Siegrist says. “And that would be a fantastic benefit for the state.”

Woeste also says the district doesn’t have enough mental health providers. She supports increased scholarships for aspiring psychiatry students.

When one of her children was battling depression, Woeste says she had to go all the way to Indianapolis to see a psychiatrist.

Both candidates agree a solution to the county’s drug addiction problem should include increased mental health resources.

Woeste and Siegrist are competing for Randy Truitt’s seat in the legislature. Truitt elected not to run for re-election.

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