Governor Pence is ready to lower the boom on State Superintendent Ritz at tomorrow’s State Board of Education meeting.
Perhaps he is miffed that the State Superintendent brought up a reading assessment proposal at the recent Roundtable meeting that he opposed. Perhaps he hasn’t gotten over the 2012 election.
A resolution entitled “Resolution Regarding Amendments to Meeting Procedures” would remove the powers of the State Superintendent to determine the location and date of meetings and to make rulings as the chair.
Apparently, the election is still being contested by the Governor and by members of the State Board who instead of respecting the decisions of Superintendent Ritz as the elected State Superintendent are attempting to diminish her powers rather than abide by her judgments as a duly elected official.
This is a direct threat to our electoral system in our democracy. The Governor and several State Board members are acting as if they are unaware of the concept that when voters empower an official by electing them, that elected official’s judgments and policies deserve respect until the next election.
[Please note: Indiana Code 3-14-1-17 says that government employees including public school employees may not “use the property of the employee’s government employer to” support the “election or defeat of a candidate” and may not distribute this message “on the government employer’s real property during regular working hours.” Ironically, the law does not prevent private school employees from using computers purchased with public voucher money to distribute campaign materials. Private schools now financed in part by public voucher dollars have retained all rights under Indiana’s voucher laws to engage in partisan political campaigns.]The Election of 2012 and the Election of 2016
It is hard to know whether opponents are still fighting the election of 2012 or preparing positions for the election of 2016 by trying to make Superintendent Ritz look weak.
The “Resolution Regarding Amendments to Meeting Procedures” would strip several powers of the State Superintendent and give them to “Board staff”, a concept that didn’t exist last year on the 4th of July and was put in place without any policy review or approvals by the Indiana General Assembly. Governor Pence created “Board staff” by cobbling together $6 million dollars in the already passed state budget and creating the Center for Education and Career Innovation (CECI) by executive fiat.
There was controversy about when to have a special meeting of the State Board in June. When it was held on June 23rd, disagreements erupted over a resolution brought by Brad Oliver who wanted to insert State Board oversight at the last minute over the federal waiver which the Indiana Department of Education was preparing for submission on June 30th. Superintendent Ritz denied the addition to the agenda on procedural grounds. Instead of accepting her ruling, the Governor and State Board members want to change the procedures so that she can never rule against them in the future.
Based on that confrontation, Governor Pence proposes the following specific changes to be voted on tomorrow, July 9th:
- “Board staff” instead of “The Chair” shall “determine the location of the meetings”.
- “Special meetings will be held at a date and time convenient to the members and at a location determined” by “Board staff” instead by “the Chair.”
- The procedure for appealing a ruling “applies to all actions and decisions otherwise addressed in these Board Meeting Procedures, including but not limited to, calling a special meeting or the addition of agenda items.”
- Any dispute about the interpretation of Board Meeting procedures will be settled immediately by a vote “during the meeting in which the dispute arose and may not be delayed to a future meeting.”
- The current Ad Hoc committee procedure to revise Meeting Procedures is deleted.
It is easy to see why State Board members want these changes. They want to win every battle. They believe they know better than Superintendent Ritz, and they want to prevail. They want the power of the Chair.
It is not as easy to see why Governor Pence wants to raise this highly partisan battle at this time.
- · Does he think that crushing the powers of the lone Democrat in the Statehouse will bolster his presidential credentials with the right wing of his party?
- · Is he trying to punish Superintendent Ritz for speaking out for reading assessments at the recent Education Roundtable meeting and forcing him to publicly oppose the proposal?
- · Is this payback to Superintendent Ritz because her financial officials recently announced that Governor Pence’s voucher expansion program is no longer a money saver for the state but instead has become a new net fiscal expense costing $15.8 million?
Governor Pence has already demonstrated that he favors private school over public schools. He has already signed a budget giving public schools historically low funding for non-recession eras (only 1% increase in the current year, far less than the current official 2.1% cost of living increase) leaving many public schools in dire financial condition. The list of electoral talking points is growing if he now wants to take out the powers of the duly elected State Superintendent.
Make no mistake: Governors have great power. He could stop this assault on the power of the State Superintendent overnight if he wanted to. If his super majority is ready to crush one of their few opponents, he could call off the dogs. The fact that he hasn’t done so is telling.
Perhaps in the glorious buzz of a presidential run for Governor Pence he has forgotten that Superintendent Ritz got 1.3 million votes, more than he did, in the 2012 election. She has many supporters who trust her judgments in helping Indiana students achieve. They know that she is a skilled educator and not a long term politician. They know that she has been surrounded by political opponents from Day 1 in the Statehouse and many of her policy initiatives have not even been given a fair hearing.
Only time will tell if this highly partisan attack in the middle of July will succeed. July is traditionally the month when the State Board takes a break and does not even hold a meeting. This group does not take a vacation. Perhaps they think with so many people on a July break, no one will notice what they do to the powers of the elected State Superintendent.
Contact the Governor and State Board Members
The State Board meeting where this resolution will be considered is tomorrow, July 9th at 9am in the Government Center South. If you feel strongly about keeping the current powers of the Chair in the hands of the State Superintendent, contact members of the State Board and the Governor today.
Urge them to respect the wishes of over 1.3 million Hoosiers who voted to give Glenda Ritz the powers of the office, not thinking that political attempts would be made to undermine and reduce the authority of the State Superintendent. This partisan plan is unseemly for the supermajority to pursue and could backfire on them politically. Urge them to withdraw this resolution.
Tell them you respect Superintendent Ritz as our elected State Superintendent, and they should too. Tell them if the supermajority in Indiana acts to crush the powers of the State Superintendent, it will be long remembered by the fair-minded voters of Indiana who want education policy to made with respect for duly elected officials and without partisan rancor.
Please send your messages today. In addition, it would be a good idea to send copies to members of the General Assembly. They are supposed to have a strong hand in education policy, and they like to keep hyper-partisanship out of the education arena.
Glenda Ritz strongly supports public education. Thanks for working to support public education!
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Some readers have asked about my background in Indiana public schools. Thanks for asking! Here is a brief bio:
I am a lifelong Hoosier and began teaching in 1969. I served as a social studies teacher, curriculum developer, state research and evaluation consultant, state social studies consultant, district social studies supervisor, assistant principal, principal, educational association staff member, and adjunct university professor. I worked for Garrett-Keyser-Butler Schools, the Indiana University Social Studies Development Center, the Indiana Department of Education, the Indianapolis Public Schools, IUPUI, and the Indiana Urban Schools Association, from which I retired as Associate Director in 2009. I hold three degrees: B.A. in Ed., Ball State University, 1969; M.S. in Ed., Indiana University, 1972; and Ed.D., Indiana University, 1977, along with a Teacher’s Life License and a Superintendent’s License, 1998.