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Glenda Ritz Says State Board Is Trying To Steal Some Of Her Power

Board votes on resolution today to change some board meeting rules

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz (wibc.com file photo)

The State Board of Education will vote today on a proposal which the state superintendent says strips her of some of her power.
 
A resolution on the agenda for today's board meeting would create a committee which would consider a plan to shift authority for setting the agenda, determining when and where meetings took place and how motions during meetings are handled.  It could move some of that authority away from Superintendent Glenda Ritz, who chairs the board, and give it to the board's staff.  The plan could also allow members to ask the rest of the board to overrule rulings Ritz makes as board chair.
 
The dispute grew out of complaints from some board members that Ritz and her staff withheld information from the board on the state's dealings with the federal government concerning Indiana's waiver from No Child Left Behind rules. Board member Brad Oliver told me in previous interviews he didn't think Ritz's department was sharing information in a timely manner.  He says the resolution would simply clearly define the powers of the chair of the State Board, as the board has received conflicting legal advice on the matter.  Oliver is traveling out of the country and was unavailable for an interview on Tuesday - he will use Skype to participate in today's board meeting.
 
Ritz is the only Democrat holding a statewide elective office, and though the board is comprised of Republicans and Democrats, all its members were appointed by Republican governors.  No one in Ritz's office responded to a request for an interview, but Ritz issued a statement through the department saying "the Governor-appointed State Board of Education and his separate education staff appear determined to undermine our work."  Ritz is referring to the Center for Education and Career Innovation (CECI), which was created by Pence last year and whose staff advises the State Board.
 
In the past, Ritz openly accused Pence of using CECI to engineer a takeover of her department, and she all but reiterated that in Tuesday's statement.  “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 statement read.  "I have asked that the Governor remove this resolution from consideration tomorrow before our schools and students suffer the consequences.”  Pence's press secretary, Kara Brooks, had no comment on the resolution, instead referring questions to CECI. 
 
Teacher union members are expected to make up a large part of the crowd at today's meeting.  The Indiana State Teachers Association, of which Ritz is a former board member, asked teachers to show their support for the superintendent.  "(Ritz) was elected by the people to do the job of the state superintendent.  Moving her responsibilities... to board members that voters did not elect (or) to a person that the governor leans on for education - who isn't even an educator - is frightening," said ISTA president Teresa Meredith, referring to Claire Fiddian-Green, Pence's Special Assistant for Education Innovation, who co-leads CECI.
 
 

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