Indiana School Board Members Battle Superintendent for Power

In an eight-hour board meeting last week, Indiana’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz had some of her powers as board chair stripped.

The state’s Board of Education is comprised of members appointed by Governor Mike Pence, or his predecessor Mitch Daniels, both of whom are Republicans.

In the latest meeting, board members asked for two resolutions; including one which would give them more involvement in important matters like the No Child Left Behind waiver.

Due to a government shutdown the results of the state’s waiver application was not made available until the spring, causing a rush to meet federal expectations which did not keep board members as involved as they would have liked to be.

They also would like a meeting procedure that allows for everyone to be involved in the planning and appeals.  Board members feel that just because Ritz is the chair does not mean what she says should be the final decision, writes Rachel Morello for Indiana Public Media.

“The voters elected Superintendent Ritz to be the Superintendent of Public Instruction, which is very different from being the head of education in the state of Indiana,” said board member Gordon Hendry. “The governor, the legislature, and the State Board of Education have a very critical role to play in education policy in the state of Indiana. There’s no such thing as an ‘education czar’ in the state.”

Meanwhile, teachers are concerned that the items that need to be addressed are getting lost in all the bickering.

“Personally, I just want to teach my children!” kindergarten teacher Twyla Flint exclaims. “That’s one of the main things all of the bickering, that takes away from just us wanting to educate the children.”

Many need clarity from the board in order to know what direction to go in for this year’s school session, now that Indiana has dropped the Common Core.

“The assessment part is a little concerning right now for our students because we don’t know exactly what direction it’s going to go into,” middle school teacher Seria Walton says. “As we’re trying to prepare for this year and provide professional development for the teachers in order to support students and learning, we don’t know what’s actually going to be assessed, what system we’re actually going to use.”

As an outcome of last week’s meeting, a 7-3 vote resulted in the board will be more involved when it comes to the No Child Left Behind waiver.  It is still unclear exactly how much the board will be involved.

A subcommittee will also be appointed by Ritz to take a closer look at board rules and procedures, allowing board members to set meeting times and add items to the agenda without chair approval, writes Paige Clark for The Courier-Journal.  This resolution outraged Ritz’s supporters.

“There are many of us in the state, 1.3 million that voted for Superintendent Ritz,” said Lynn Richard Nelson, a retired professor of history education. “And we do not share your educational philosophy.”

Supporters have launched an online petition labeled #LetRitzWork.  The goal was to have at least 500 signatures, but after only four days the effort had gathered more than 1,400, writes Niki Kelly for The Journal Gazette.