By Dustin Beach
INDIANAPOLIS – A bill that would remove the state’s education chief position from Indiana ballots passed through one more major hurdle Tuesday.
House Bill 1005, authored by House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, originally called for the elected-position of superintendent of public instruction to be replaced by a governor-appointed secretary of education in the year 2021.
That version of the legislation passed through the House, but ran into a roadblock in the Senate, due to a rule barring any legislation with similar language to a bill that was defeated from being heard in that chamber during the same session. A Senate bill that called for a governor-appointed education chief failed on the Senate floor in February.
Senate Pro Tempore David Long, R-Fort Wayne said the House bill would need “substantial changes” to be heard in the Senate during the 2017 session.
So, a Senate committee, chaired by Long, changed the bill to make a superintendent appointed in 2025. Committee members also added an Indiana residency requirement of two years and a requirement of working in education for at least five years. The changes were enough in most eyes for the bill to be heard on the floor. However, Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, still thought the superintendent bill should not be heard due the rule.
“Certainly what the bill was doing was the same thing, moving the position of the superintendent of public instruction from being an elected position to being an appointed position,” he said. “Now in my opinion that invokes then the rule at this point in time.”
Lanane’s attempt to stop the bill was shot down by both Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, who presides over the Senate, and Long.
Supporters of the bill argue making the position appointed ensures that politics stays out of education. Discord among the two offices was most recently seen between former Gov. Mike Pence, a Republican, and former Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz, a Democrat.
“I know it may not be a perfect solution, but it is a solution to keep the wheel of politics hopefully out of education,” said Sen. Andy Zay, R-Huntington.
Opponents have noted throughout the legislative process how this move would strip Hoosier voters of their right to choose the state’s top education official.
“I think my constituents’ vote is important,” said Sen. Jean Leising, R-Oldenburg. “I believe that they have a right to vote on who they want to be their superintendent.”
This version of the bill passed the Senate by a vote of 28-20.
The bill will now move back to the House for the speaker to review the changes senators made.
Dustin Beach is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.