by Brian Washington
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A group of non-elected bureaucrats has circumvented the power and authority of Indiana voters.
The State Board of Education, a ten-member panel comprised mainly of Governor Mike Pence appointees, recently approved some controversial resolutions, including one designed to strip State Superintendent Glenda Ritz of her traditional and legal role as Chair of the board.
As reported by Education Votes in 2012, Ritz was overwhelmingly elected by the people—1.3 million voters—to serve as the leader of K-12 education in the state.
Board members, working in conjunction with Governor Pence’s newly created Center for Education and Career Innovation (CECI)—a $14 million agency designed to mirror the work of Indiana’s department of education—approved the resolutions during a meeting last week.
Prior to the meeting, Ritz issued a statement indicating that one of the resolutions—which was ultimately approved—may put the state’s No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waiver in jeopardy. The waiver allows the state to escape certain aspects of the flawed legislation.
I have said from the start that I am a strong proponent of renewing and extending our waiver. Unfortunately, the Governor-appointed State Board of Education and his separate education staff (CECI) appear determined to undermine our work. Let me be clear, if passed, this resolution will place our waiver in serious jeopardy. This resolution unfairly questions the honesty and capacity of my administration to implement the waiver and may result in ramifications from Washington.
The Indiana State Teachers Association (ISTA), which represents more than 45,000 teachers and education support professionals, gave public testimony about the resolutions, calling the board’s move to strip Ritz of her authority a disservice to voters. ISTA also outlined some important takeaways from the meeting in a recent blog post:
Two very important lessons were gleaned from today’s board meeting. One: The Governor-appointed state board is bent on discrediting Superintendent Ritz even at the risk of jeopardizing millions in federal education dollars to help children learn. Two: If the board doesn’t get its way, it changes the rules—even to the detriment of good government and public transparency. Hoosiers of both political parties (who constitute much of Superintendent Ritz’ base of support) should take note of the overreach.
Ritz is reportedly having attorneys review the approved resolutions—particularly as they relate to her authority to call board meetings and several new restrictions.
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