July 9, 2014

 

The State Board of Education voted today to further strip Superintendent Ritz’s authority and undermine the Department of Education with its approval of several highly controversial resolutions.

 

The board met after days of controversy leading up to the meeting. It began last week when ISTA pointed out a resolution on the board’s agenda that sought to dramatically change board operating procedures and rules. The changes further remove authority of the Superintendent’s traditional role as Chair of the board. The state superintendent, by law, is the chairperson of the State Board of Education.

 

The fact that Glenda’s authority can be diminished by non-elected bureaucrat appointees of the Governor is a disservice to the 1.3 million voters that elected Ritz in 2012.

 

Superintendent Ritz later told reporters that she would have attorneys review the legality of removing her authority to call board meetings and other new restrictions.

 

It was further revealed earlier this week that the board intended to also pass a politically motivated resolution that attempts to discredit the Department of Education’s handling of Indiana’s NCLB waiver. Superintendent Ritz issued a statement yesterday in response warning that the resolutions passage could jeopardize Indiana’s waiver status.

 

It was revealed by Ritz at the state board meeting that the Governor’s duplicate education agency, the CECI, actually issued its own report to the U.S. Department of Education, overnight, that was critical of the Department of Education’s handling of the waiver application. At the meeting, board members and the CECI staff levied an attack on Ritz and the DOE claiming that the board had no input on the waiver.

 

However, Superintendent Ritz produced a large pile of documents (appeared to be at least 6 inches worth of paperwork) containing emails and attachments which showed that the Department, board CECI staff and others had in fact been communicated with regularly throughout the waiver application preparation process.

 

ISTA gave public comment on both the ESEA waiver resolution and the board operating procedures resolution.

 

On the ESEA waiver resolution, ISTA reminded the board that Indiana’s DOE, under federal law, is the sole party to the waiver submission to the US DOE and that the state board’s ill-timed 11th inning actions constituted both an interference with the DOE’s work and an uncalled-for danger to Indiana’s waiver approval.

 

With regard to the operating procedures waiver, ISTA pointed out that with the state board’s proposed changes, the board could, meeting-by-meeting, add agenda items on the day of the meeting, giving the public absolutely no notice about issues coming up. Also, the board could flip-flop its interpretations of operating procedures from meeting to meeting which basically means there is no procedure at all on which the public can count.

 

ISTA noted that the resolution was poorly drafted and thought-out and appears, again, to ordinary Hoosiers as retribution against Superintendent Ritz for “not getting its way” at the last meeting. ISTA went on to remind the members that a mere 6 months ago, at taxpayer expense a mediator was brought in (who was chosen by the state board) to help the board develop its current operating procedures.

 

The waste of taxpayer resources continues to mount. Let’s not forget we have a governor who wasted little time creating by executive order his own education agency (called CECI) to mirror the work of Indiana’s long-standing department of education. So far, that has cost Hoosiers at least $14 million.

 

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.