Move to oust Ritz as ed board chair gets closer to becoming law

By Adam Lee
TheStatehouseFile.com

INDIANAPOLIS – The House passed a bill on Tuesday that gives the State Board of Education the power to elect its chair.

Senate Bill 1, authored by Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, would end an arrangement unique to Indiana and Oklahoma, which are the only states in which the elected superintendent of public instruction automatically serves as chair of the state board of education.

The bill is controversial because it would remove current Superintendent Glenda Ritz, a Democrat, as board chair before her term is finished. Ritz would remain in charge of the Department of Education and could be elected the board’s leader, but that’s unlikely given ongoing tensions between her and its members.

The bill would add two additional members, who would be appointed by leaders of the General Assembly. That would bring the total board membership to 13, with 10 appointed by the governor. The superintendent would continue to serve on the board. The bill also requires that at least six members of the board must hold a teacher’s license and be employed in an Indiana school.

Rep. Jud McMillin, R-Brookville, said despite the controversies, the bill is about public policy, not politics.

There was no discussion on the bill, but the vote revealed a divided chamber. The House passed the bill 55-41 and it now moves back to the Senate where changes made by the House will be considered.

Adam Lee is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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One Response to Move to oust Ritz as ed board chair gets closer to becoming law

  1. The General Assembly and the Governor have entered into dangerous territory by changing the law regarding the chair of the State Board of Education. Current law has been in effect for over 100 years, with the Supt. of Instruction being the chair of this Board. Voters choose elected officials based on current Indiana law and their duties. Changing current law during the current term of this elected official invalidates the voters’ choice, a choice made based on the duties and skills of the elected official. Not only does this cancel the intent of the voters’ choice, it also sets precedent that any other Indiana elected official can have significant powers removed if the General Assembly and Governor so desire. This could happen to the state treasurer, the state auditor, and the secretary of state. This precedent would apply to either party in power with a Supermajority.

    This decision can have consequences far beyond this one office. Corporations may think twice about locating to Indiana if laws can be changed in this manner, especially if an elected official’s power can be “adjusted” for political gain during his/her current term.