Sunday, February 1, 2015

House Education Committee Approves Bills to Gut Ritz's Powers as Superintendent

The lead in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette says it all: "Two bills gutting Democratic Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz’s power passed the House Education Committee on Thursday." The first (HB 1609) said the chair of the state's Board of Education would be decided by a vote of the Board members rather than automatically going to the Superintendent; the second (HB 1486)stripped the Department of Education, run by the Superintendent, of many of its powers and assigned them to the governor-appointed Board. The vote was strictly partisan.

Glenda Ritz said, "The Indiana superintendent of public instruction has held the position of chair of the State Board of Education for over 100 years. Indiana chose to have its highest-ranking elected authority on education be the chair, and the 2012 elected superintendent should be afforded this role." Read more from the Journal Gazette here.

Speaking to reporters last Friday, the Times of Northwest Indiana reported that Democratic House Minority Leader Scott Pelath called the action a slap in the face of the 1.3 million voters who elected Ritz to lead state educational policy as it is currently defined in law. Pelath said, "It just amazes me that those who have been given so many opportunities to govern Indiana and to shape policy are so paranoid about the presence of this one lone dissenter in their midst. Let her do her job and let the voters be the judge; it's not that complicated."

The Journal and Courier's Dave Bangert called the attack on Ritz an attack on voters, and considers the attempt to marginalize Ritz a mistake: "There’s a reason why Ritz was elected. Perfect or not, . . . Ritz means something in the debate over education policy, even if a Republican supermajority would rather ignore it." Read Bangert's column here.