Ritz would lose post as board chair under bill passed by Senate

(Vote results for all Senate members on SB 1 are  shown on a screen shot following this article and also here. –  Admin.)

TheStatehouseFile.com
By Adam Lee
2/17/15

INDIANAPOLIS – The Senate passed a controversial bill Tuesday that removes state Superintendent Glenda Ritz as the chair of the State Board of Education and give its members the ability to elect their own leader.

Senate Bill 1, authored by Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, would end an arrangement unique to Indiana and Oklahoma, which are the only states in which the elected superintendent of public instruction automatically serves as chair of the state board of education.

The bill also alters the composition and governance of the board. The number of members would drop from 11 down to nine. Four of those members would be appointed by the governor, two by the House speaker and two from the Senate president pro tem. The state superintendent would continue to serve on the board.

Those members would then choose a chair, which could be the superintendent. Holdman said the bill also allows the board to hire an executive director and staff to help tackle problems more efficiently.

The proposed change in policy has created strong opinions on both sides of the issue.

Sen. Timothy Lanane, D-Anderson, said that he had an “obligation to speak on behalf of the 1.3 million people” that voted for Ritz to be superintendent. Lanane called SB 1 dangerous and said it is a dispute over policy. He questioned how much more power legislators would take from the superintendent in the future.

“Somebody wants to take the superintendent of public instruction to the proverbial woodshed,” Lanane said. “It’s a woodshed made of politics by politics and for politics.”

But Sen. Brandt Hershman, R- Buck Creek, said SB 1 is about policy rather than the politics. He said the bill does not strip her of her power and she will continue to be an important factor in education.

“She has a budget of millions of dollars and a staff of hundreds of employees that will continue to have the responsibility of implementing the policy” the General Assembly sets, Hershman said.

Sen. Brent Waltz Jr., R-Greenwood, said the way the current board operates is dysfunctional – pointing out that Ritz had walked out on a board meeting and sued other members of the board. He said it is legislators’ responsibility to correct the process.

Others, including as [sic] Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis, agreed there is dysfunction but argued that the bill would make things worse. He said taking away the superintendent’s position as chair and expecting her to be cooperative is going to cause more problems.

The bill passed the Senate 33-17 and now moves to the House, which has already passed legislation to remove Ritz as chair but does not change board appointments.

Republican Gov. Mike Pence said Tuesday that he supports letting the state board choose its own chair and objected to the characterization that it was stripping her of authority. However, Pence said he does not support provisions to reduce the number of appointments he can make to the State Board of Education.

Adam Lee is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

SB 1

State House votes to strip Ritz of board chair

(Vote results for all House members on HB 1609 are here. –  Admin.)

The Journal Gazette (Ft. Wayne)
By Niki Kelly
2/9/15

INDIANAPOLIS — The elected Superintendent of Public Instruction would no longer automatically chair the State Board of Education under a bill passed 58-40 by Republicans in the Indiana House on Monday.

Twelve Republicans voted against the measure, along with 28 Democrats.

More than a dozen House members intensely debated House Bill 1609 for about an hour. It would allow the 11 members of the board — including the superintendent — to elect their own chairman.

“It has now gone from dysfunctional to detrimental for students,” said GOP House Speaker Brian Bosma, who said he has spent two years serving as almost a full-time mediator between the Republican-dominated board and Democratic Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz.

“It doesn’t rob anyone of power.”

The vote came after Ritz supporters staged a “Twitter Storm” Sunday by flooding social media with comments in support — all hashtagged #iStandWithRitz.

And a public spat about ISTEP testing length between Ritz and Gov. Mike Pence exploded just hours before the vote — providing another example of problems for GOP members to point to.

But Democrats said Ritz was elected by 1.3 million voters and one of the key parts of her job is to chair the board. Taking away that major role in the middle of her term is unfair, they said.

House Democratic Leader Scott Pelath compared Republicans supporting the measure to a schoolyard bully.

“What is it that you are afraid of? This one lone Democratic voice?” he said. “Show restraint. Respect the voices of the voters.”

Northeast Indiana had two Republicans vote against the measure — Rep. Curt Nisly, R-Goshen, and Rep. Christopher Judy, R-Fort Wayne.

“I was sent here to represent my constituents,” Nisly said. “I’ve heard a good amount from them. This is something in my opinion that should wait until after the next election.”

Judy said he made a commitment to voters in his district that he wouldn’t support a change in governance structure during Ritz’ first term.

“They want to let the election process work.”

The only other area lawmaker to vote no was Rep. Phil GiaQuinta, D-Fort Wayne.

nkelly@jg.net

“…this has been at heart a high-stakes series of contentious policy debates for the past two years about the future of public education in Indiana.”

(The following is testimony given by Vic Smith, a retired educator, at the Indiana Senate Rules & Legislative Procedure Committee yesterday. The entire hearing was livestreamed and Dr. Smith’s comments begin at 1:32:41.) Vic’s Statehouse Notes #199 – February 3, … Continue reading

Future role of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction dominates Third House session

(There will be a Third House session on Saturday, Feb. 7th, at 8:00A.M. in Rochester at Rochester Meat & Deli’s Manitou Banquet Center at 901 E. 9th St. This opportunity for the public is arranged for by the Fulton County Chamber of Commerce with the Fulton County Farm Bureau serving as a co-sponsor. Speakers include Sen. Randy Head and Reps. Tim Harman and Doug Gutwein. Rep. Friend, with regrets, will not be able to attend. Those attending will have the opportunity to participate in a Q&A. – Russ Phillips)

Locals to state: Stop the drama
Head: Republicans should wait to change superintendent’s role

Pharos~Tribune, Logansport, IN
By Ben Middlekamp
2/1/15

Local lawmakers and their constituents talked upcoming state legislation Saturday, Jan. 31, with much discussion about the future role of the state superintendent of public instruction.

Indiana House Education Committee members met Thursday, Jan. 29, and passed a bill 8-3 that would let the 10 governor-appointed State Board of Education members — excluding the superintendent as its 11th member — elect its own chair. The Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction has been head of the board for more than 100 years, said Superintendent Glenda Ritz.

Ritz, a Democrat, could lose her position as the head of the state school board, which is majority Republican, if the bill passes. She also previously stated that she intends to run for re-election in 2016.

Not everyone agrees with the committee’s action. During a Third House session at the West Side Diner in Logansport Saturday morning, State Sen. Randy Head, R-Logansport, said the state’s republican- controlled General Assembly should rethink its plans when it comes to removing Ritz from power.

“If we as Republicans want to change the way the superintendent of public instruction is elected or chosen or what her duties are, we ought to do that when a Republican holds the office,” Head said.

Head said the Legislature had “ample opportunities” to change the role of the superintendent when Tony Bennett, a Republican, was in power from 2008 to 2012, but it didn’t.

“It just looks like [Republicans] didn’t win the race, and so now we’re trying to do something about it,” Head said, “and the thing to do about it is to run another candidate, that’s how you fix things if that’s what you want to do.”

Some members in the audience at the public meeting said the State Board of Education members should be elected rather than appointed to provide more accountability for their actions. The state board and Ritz have had several heated arguments during board meetings since she took office in 2013.

Friend said more than half of the $30 billion two-year state budget is spent on education. He said with that focus on education in the state, both sides — Ritz and the State Board of Education — should focus on what’s best schools and kids.

“People in general want their government to work,” he said. “And these very visible, public quarrels and disagreements and squabbling upsets everybody.”

With the bill passed in committee Thursday now headed to the full House, Head said another bill in the Senate (SB 24?) could turn the superintendent’s position into one appointed by the governor starting in 2021. He added that the House bill is more likely to pass than the one proposed in the Senate.

In addition to legislators wanting changes in the state’s control of public education, Head said some state senators are meeting to try to reduce the number of standardized tests for K-12 students.

Michele Starkey, Logansport Community Schools Corp. Superintendent, said out of the 180 days in a school year, elementary students take and prepare for state testing for 76 days, 73 days for middle school students and 50 days in high school — much of which takes place the second semester.

Those senators meeting, Head said, want to create a test that shows how a student in (sic) progressing, rather than just pass or fail as ISTEP is designed, as well as add a reading portion to the test, instead of IREAD-3 being separate.

The next Third House session will be Saturday, March 28, at West Side Diner (in Logansport).

• The Associated Press contributed to this report. Reach Ben Middelkamp at 574-732-5117 or