By Abdul Hakim-Shabazz
Abdul Hakim-Shabazz is an attorney and the editor and publisher of IndyPoltics.Org.
Lately, I haven’t written much about the folks at the superintendent of public instruction’s office because they haven’t done much of anything. Literally, they haven’t done much of anything.
The office has been missing deadlines regarding a number of issues critical to Indiana’s education policy. It’s failed to promulgate rules for teacher evaluations based on performance. It hasn’t crafted rules for private schools that received vouchers from the families of special needs children. It’s dropping the ball when it comes to turnaround academies for failing schools. When it comes to “A-F” grading, I don’t think Glenda Ritz would make the top four grades.
However, with all that work to do, I was surprised that Ritz and her staff found time to discuss, draft and file a complaint against the Indiana State Board of Education for allegedly violating the state’s Open Door Laws. The suit says the group held a “secret meeting” to request assistance from the legislature in moving the ball forward on “A-F” grading and evaluation.
Ritz has said that there are 55,000 scores that need to be re-graded, that may seem like a lot to the untrained eye or uninformed individual, but luckily, I am neither. What she is really talking about is that there are about 3 million ISTEP questions total and 55,000 of them (less than 2 percent) need to be rechecked.
To the question about whether the board’s request is in violation of Indiana’s Open Door law, I doubt it very seriously. Without getting all “Paper Chase” or “L.A. Law” on folks, the rules are pretty clear: Government bodies must take official actions in public. Even if they are discussing private, sensitive information, they can go into executive session, but any final vote must be taken in public.
Ritz says the board “took action” to undermine her authority. What the State Board of Education did was “… respectfully requests that LSA (Legislative Services Agency) and DOE (Department of Education) enter into and MOU to calculate …” the A-F grades. Now, if the board decided to enter into the agreement behind closed doors and away from the eyes of the public, that would be one thing. But, that’s not what is happening here. I doubt if this particular request for assistance is taking us down the path to Watergate. When the head of the Hoosier Press Association says Ritz’s lawsuit is “murky,” that should say quite a bit.
If anything, this lawsuit is a smokescreen to hide the fact that Ritz and her staff are either incompetent and can’t meet deadlines which they have been mandated by law to meet or they don’t like the current changes to education in Indiana and they have no intention of carrying them out and will do everything within their authority to delay their implementation.
Instead of doing their jobs to enact policies to create better schools and more accountability, Ritz and her staff whine that they are being picked on by the State Board of Education, which consists of Republicans, Democrats and independents. Or they spend their days data-mining e-mails from the prior administration. It’s like dealing with the school bully who starts the fight by pushing another kid while the teacher isn’t looking and when the kid hits back he runs and tells the teacher the other kid started it.
Luckily, a lot of us are too smart to fall for that because we’re always keeping an eye on the bad actors.
Abdul is an attorney and the editor and publisher of IndyPoltics.Org. He is also a frequent contributor to numerous Indiana media outlets. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.