"I want every child to have a solid chance," McCarty said. "If they want to start a career out of high school, we need to prepare them for that. And they need to have the skills for college as well."
McCarty, a Republican, is the first candidate to announce in the race for the District 6 seat on the Alabama State Board of Education. The district, which was redrawn in redistricting two years ago, includes all of Calhoun County, as well as Cherokee, St. Clair, Blount, Marshall and Morgan counties.
The district is currently represented by Charles Elliott, a Decatur anaesthesiologist who isn't seeking another term. Elliott, a Republican, told Decatur-area news outlets over the summer that he was leaving to focus on his medical practice.
McCarty, 53, has taught at JSU for 23 years and is director of the college's Center for Business and Free Enterprise, Education and Entrepreneurship.
McCarty said she's entering the race partly because of the uneven results she's seen from the state's K-12 system. Some JSU freshmen, she said, are "ready for Harvard," while others need remediation before they're prepared for college courses.
"I regret when students have to take those remedial classes," she said. "They take time and they cost money, and the students don't get credit for them."
McCarty grew up in Auburn and got her undergraduate degree there. She went on to get a master's in business administration from Samford University and a doctorate in economics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
She credits part of her academic success to a math teacher at Auburn High School who took pains to make sure his students were ready for college.
"He went over to Auburn University and said, I want to see the textbook that you use," she said. "We used that textbook, and the syllabus from Auburn."
In a press release announcing her candidacy, McCarty stresses the need for colleges to coordinate with K-12 schools.
McCarty said K-12 schools and colleges should also do more to help young people with the growing burden of student debt.
"I have students crying in my office who have three part time jobs and can't stay awake in class," she said. Some of her students have had to drop out of college to deal with debt, she said. Some don't return, she said.
Schools at all levels should do more to teach students about the financial resources that are available to them, McCarty said.
McCarty said she has an "open mind" about criticisms of Alabama's Common Core-influenced state standards, but so far has seen few problems with them. She said the board has already voted to acknowledge that Alabama retains the right to change its standards as it sees fit.
No one has filed official paperwork to begin fundraising for the District 6 seat, state records show. McCarty said she'll file that paperwork soon. She said she'll officially announce her candidacy in a press conference Tuesday at 10 a.m. at the Anniston campus of Gadsden State Community College.
Capitol & statewide correspondent Tim Lockette: 256-294-4193. On Twitter @TLockette_Star.