By Dmitriy Synkov
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“The results of one election shouldn’t erase 100 years of tradition,” read one tweet from the Indiana State Education Association (ISTA), which represents thousands of educators from across the state, after lawmakers voted last week to strip a publicly elected official and educator from her role as chairperson of the State Board of Education.
Senate Bill 1, passed by both chambers last week, proposes the removal of Ritz from her role as school board leader. The bill would instead allow the board to elect a chairperson on its own, ending the long-standing custom of the superintendent also chairing the school board.
“The superintendent has for over 100 years been chair for this board,” says Teresa Meredith, kindergarten teacher and ISTA president, wondering “if the role of the elected state superintendent will be diminished even more” once the bill is implemented in July.
Ritz, who’s chaired the school board since being elected to the superintendent’s office in 2012, is an experienced, veteran educator with two master’s degrees, and at the time of her election, was one of 155 national board certified teachers in Indiana. Prior to running for office, she worked as a library media specialist in Indianapolis’ Washington Township.
Most worrisome among the implications of Senate Bill 1 is the impact it would have on students in the classroom, who may no longer benefit from having an educator advocating for kids.
Serving as chair is one of the responsibilities of the elected State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Glenda Ritz,” says Meredith. “Our members support her because they know she really understands what’s happening in the trenches, and she knows the impact that state board of education decisions will have on students in our classrooms.
The bill, which has been championed by Governor Mike Pence, who is expected to sign it, is set to take effect in July.