By Dustin Beach
INDIANAPOLIS – The elected position of the Superintendent of Public Instruction could soon be off Indiana ballots.
Senate Bill 179, authored by Sen. James Buck, R-Kokomo, looks to make the job a governor-appointed position.
“Senate Bill 179 is not a new subject, it’s been around that I’m aware of for about 30 years, both R’s and D’s, both House and the Senate,” said Buck. “Over the years we’ve discussed making the superintendent of public instruction an appointed position rather than an elected position.”
The goal, according to supporters, is to provide unity in the state’s platform on public education. Buck said the bill would ensure that the governor’s agenda on education and the education chief are on the same page.
Discord among the two offices was most recently between former Gov. Mike Pence, a Republican, and former Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz, a Democrat.
Indiana is currently one of only 13 states which still publically elects their top education official according to the Indy Chamber.
When asked about Monday’s Elections Committee hearing, the office for current superintendent, Jennifer McCormick, referred to a statement put out on Jan. 5, in response to Gov. Eric Holcomb’s legislative agenda. Holcomb’s agenda included turning the Superintendent’s position into an appointed one.
“I do not view this as a personal reflection of my ability or willingness to effectively work with the governor,” McCormick said in the statement. “While I value the notion of a separation of powers between the governor and state superintendent, I fully recognize that the governor and state superintendent must work collaboratively.”
The Indiana State Teachers Association did not support the bill and argued the changes would increase the amount of politics within the state’s education department.
“Saying that you’re taking politics out of it by having everyone just agree, having a one-party legislator majority, the same-party governor and the same-party appointed superintendent that is somehow taking politics out of it,” said John O’Neal, policy and research coordinator at the ISTA. “All that means is that they can ram through legislation and policies more quickly and easily.”
Sen. Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, voted against the bill. He said Hoosier voters are more than capable of electing of the superintendent of public instruction.
“Its just philosophically in my opinion, who do you think is better to choose the office of the superintendent of public instruction, one person, or all the qualified, registered voters of the state of Indiana,” said Lanane, “And I trust the people, and I very much believe that should be an elected office.”
The bill passed out of committee by a vote of 6-3 and will now be considered by the full House.
Dustin Beach is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.