(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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.