Thursday, February 19, 2015

Fixing Indiana Education Board Dysfunction Could Cost Republicans Next State Superintendent Election

Under Indiana law, the Governor chooses all the ten members (five Republicans and five Democrats) of the State Education Board, the body set up to enact general education policy in the state.  The eleventh member of the Board, the elected Superintendent of Public Instruction, acts as the chair.  So the Board members are beholden to Governor Mike Pence for their appointment,
State Superintendent of
Public Instruction Glenda Ritz
while Superintendent Glenda Ritz's direct boss is the voters who elected her.   It would be hard to design a more dysfunctional structure.  We shouldn't be surprised then that the Education Board and Ritz have clashed over policy and procedures.  We ought to instead be surprised that it took so long for clashes between the Superintendent and the Board to reveal the dysfunctionality of the Board structure.

The Republican-dominated legislature this year has pursued a solution.  On Tuesday, the Indiana Senate passed a bill on a 33-17 party-line vote that would allow the Board to pick its own chair.  While the bill would leave Ritz on the board, it would effectively remove her as chair.  Under the bill, the current 11 member State Election Board would be reduced to 9, with the Governor appointing four members, the legislature four members and the Superintendent being the 9th member.

It is a change that should have been made a long time ago.  I do, however, have a problem with taking  power away from an elected official.    Like it or not, and many Republican don't, Glenda Ritz was elected by the voters to be Superintendent, including the duty of chairing the State Election Board.  Taking duties away from an elected official in the middle of his or her term seems highly inappropriate.

Republicans are making Glenda Ritz into a martyr, a foolish mistake that could be costly.  Instead of a 2016 election focusing on her weak leadership, the Republicans have dealt the Democrats an ace.  Their treatment of Ritz will become front and center THE election issue.   Ritz will quite possibly increase her vote total from 2012 simply by exploiting her treatment as her primary issue.

We Republicans lost the Superintendent race in 2012 because we had a nominee who managed to alienate people who oppose educational reform as well as those who advocate for it.  The underreported story is how Tony Bennett's staff had deeply alienated conservatives by pushing Common Core and a flawed A-F grading system that downplayed the importance of improvement as a measuring stick, thus favoring traditional public schools over charter schools.

It didn't have to be this way.  Governor Pence is a very personable individual and fully capable of reaching across the aisle to schmooze a political opponent.  The Governor should have early on went to Superintendent Ritz and worked on finding issues where they had common ground.   Instead from the beginning of 2013 the approach was to pick a fight with Ritz.  Ritz will lose the battle in the legislature, that there is no doubt.  But she may well be the one having the last laugh come Election Night 2016.


Pete Boggs said...

Ritz is a union hack. The Republican problem is 10 years of statism, expanded government, higher taxes & Chamber of Communism driven support for idiocy like Commie Core & Damnesty.

Paul K. Ogden said...

"Republican" Sue Ellen Reed who was in office for 12 years received huge contributions from the ISTA.

The ISTA is not the obstacle to education reform the organization once was.

Anonymous said...

Paul, you are absolutely correct that the Republicans created "martyr" Glenda Ritz. The Republicans damaged themselves in the eyes of many Hoosiers of all political persuasions in the many attacks Republicans fired at Ms. Ritz.

Brian Bosma has less brains than he has hair on his scalp... but this too-long-in-his-legislature-seat career politicians' cosmos sized ego refuses to allow him to see what is obvious to us in the grass roots trenches.

From where this Republican stands, Glenda Ritz was elected by Hoosier voters not by Hoosiers statehouse career seat warmers. Attacking Ms. Ritz as these foolish Republicans consistently do only incenses all voters at the arrogance of the ruling class over the will of the people at the polls. Whether one agrees with Ms. Ritz is beside the point.. she won the election, let it go.

The state "establishment" Republicans are every bit as corrupt and out of touch with the people as is the Marion County GOP and that includes all the moronic "executive directors" state and local have had through the years up to today.