GOP IN governor, legislators move to strip state supt’s authority in power grab


by Félix Pérez

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Indiana State Superintendent Glenda Ritz, a former Teacher of the Year in two districts, rankled pro-voucher Gov. Mike Pence and like-minded state legislators from the moment voters elected her the state’s leader of public schools in 2012. It turns out Pence and the anyone-but-Ritz lawmakers finally may have found a way to accomplish their long-time goal: stripping Ritz of her authority.

On Monday, the Senate Rules Committee approved a bill that fulfills Pence’s goal of removing Ritz as chairman of the state board of education. The House Education Committee approved similar legislation last week. Both bills eliminate a statutory role in place for more than 100 years.

Ritz, testifying before the House committee, said:

Voters view the election of the Superintendent to be a non-partisan position. Look at the voting statistics through history and you will find that the people vote for the person that they feel can best serve Indiana students, regardless of political party. This political power move . . . is unnecessary and will do nothing to resolve the real governance issues that this policy-making body must address.

IN Supt. Glenda Ritz
Indiana Supt. Glenda Ritz

Ritz, the lone Democratic statewide officeholder in Indiana, gained national attention in 2012 when, powered and funded by educators and parents statewide, she staged a surprise defeat of the incumbent. The Teacher of the Year in two different school districts in Indiana and a National Board Certified teacher, Ritz established a literacy program that led her school to become a nationally recognized Blue Ribbon School and an Indiana 4-Star School. Ritz was president of the Washington Township Education Association for 15 years.

Despite her professional accomplishments, the state Senate’s leading Republican isn’t impressed. “In all fairness, Superintendent Ritz was a librarian, OK?” said David Long, Indiana Senate president, managing to pull off being both condescending and wrong. “She has never run a school system.”

Ritz has met with opposition from Pence’s appointees on the board since she took office, because she has stymied their efforts to impose teacher evaluations based on corporate education reform models, expand private school vouchers and implement the state takeover of poorly performing schools. The bills in the legislature are the latest attempt to limit Ritz’s ability to make decisions about what is placed on the board’s agenda or when votes are taken.

Teresa Meredith, an elementary school teacher for more than 20 years and president of the Indiana State teachers Association, said it’s time legislators end their attacks on Ritz and listen to the 1.3 million Democrats and Republicans who voted for her. “We are six years into the implementation of the education reforms yet we are still trying to decide who is in charge. The dilemma is that voters decided this two years ago and this move has the appearance of trying to override them.”



Reader Comments

  1. I am so saddened by the direction in which these conversations are going regarding public school education, academic funding (or lack thereof), charter schools with little or no accountability. When are voting people going to wake up for what is truly important in education and education funding? In regards to education, rigorous standards are important, but not at the loss of creativity, arts, and passion. Standardized tests don’t and can’t measure the degree of perseverance or dedication that a student exhibits. As an employer, these are traits that are far more important than how well a student performed on any standardized test.
    Taking public funding away from public schools into the hands of charter schools is just wrong. If we need to create alternative educational paths for students, this should be done within the framework of public schools.
    Respectfully submitted,
    Sally Wells
    National Board Certified Teacher
    Mentor teacher
    Adjunct Faculty teacher
    Parent of successful children who have followed their own passions

  2. Pence is scared of what Glenda Ritz stands for. She wants public schools in Indiana to be properly funded. She is against vouchers because there is little or know accountability on the part of voucher schools. Religious schools can accept or reject students while Public Schools must, and do, serve anyone that comes to the door. And if the voucher student does not do well academically in a voucher school, the student is sent back to the public schools but the money is not returned with the student. Pence just won’t admit the truth. He is doing this to break the ISTA and any other union he can find. And as far as Tony Bennett goes, well, his actions speak for what kind of person he is. Yeah, that is the kind of honest example that I would want my children to look up to. I hope the people of Indiana will wake up and see that Pence and his “crew” are not interested in the betterment of the Hoosier Public Schools. They are more concerned about the betterment of their political party!! Pence and his so-called experts would never be willing to work under the conditions that they have shoved down the throats of Indiana teachers. I guess the old adage, “Do as I say and not as I do!” is alive in the governor’s mansion in Indy.

  3. Charter schools are nothing but a money laundering system especially for GOP candidates. Because indiana’s people have allowed the GOP to do whatever they want and have never built any opposition. This what happens when a state has no political balance, you have a king. The teachers in this state need to strike with intention of never going back to the classroom until this state makes decisions that are good for education not for the GOP’s pocket book. You could not pay me enough money to be a teacher in a state like indiana.

  4. The republican party in Indiana is lead by a governor “who roller skates with his wife” What credentials does he have to run a state????

  5. Mike Pence and his cronies involved in this farce need to stop their pouting because Glenda Ritz got elected. They need to let her do the job she was elected to by the people. Her ideas are so much better than Pence’s. Taking money from public school funding and giving it to the charter school is absolutely ridiculous. I’m wondering how much of the money that has been given to these charter schools have really been given to the education for the students. This money must and should go to the public school systems for the education of students. The public schools need money for books and school supplies and all the other things that are needed. Teachers are having to take their own money and pay for supplies that are needed. Teachers cannot teach. Instead, they have to worry about the results of these stupid ISTEP tests (or whatever they call it). The students have to take these tests. They feel the pressure that is put on the importance of these supposed important tests. The grades the kids get throughout the year on their book learning is how it should be handled. Teachers are overly stressed because they get judged on these tests. Pence needs to back off of this. All he is doing is wasting time and not allowing Glenda Ritz do her job that she was ELECTED TO BY THE PEOPLE. Pence needs to get busy and deal with all of the other problems in Indiana. Examples: Crime, drugs, roads, unemployment and getting companies to build in Indiana that pay decent wages so that people can take care of themselves. Maybe we should start stripping the duties of Pence. Pence is a bully and acts like a dictator.

  6. These Republican governors are determined to privatize public schools, rewarding their donors to be charter school managers. It’s really that simple.

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