Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Pence, Elsener Move to Take Power From Ritz

From ISTA...

Once again, the Indiana State Board of Education (SBE), consistent with its past experience, flouts rules, transparency, meaningful debate, and process in its latest power grab targeted against Glenda Ritz, State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

At today's SBE meeting, member Dan Elsener presented an action item in the form of a resolution, without prior notification to Superintendent Ritz, who chairs the SBE, and without properly placing his resolution on the agenda for the committee's and, more importantly, the public's benefit and future input.

Elsener's resolution calls for him to chair a SBE-controlled committee involving more outside consultants and taxpayer spending to develop Indiana goals-something that the current Department of Education could and should accomplish by way of making recommendations to the SBE.

"Unfortunately, this kind of presumptuousness has become common practice with this and the prior administration's state board of education," said ISTA President Teresa Meredith.

At today's meeting, in the wake of Superintendent Ritz mentioning the need for compliance with Indiana's Open Door laws, a board member seconded Elsener's motion and the board passed the resolution without any substantive debate nor objection except for Ritz' clear abstention.

ISTA encourages its members to contact Gov. Mike Pence and ask him to remind the people he has appointed to the State Board of Education to respect process, transparency and Superintendent Ritz, the elected official who chairs the State Board.

But wait . . . there's more . . .

It appears as though there are no bounds to the State Board of Education and the Governor's march to power-over and over-power Indiana's duly-elected state superintendent of public instruction, Glenda Ritz.

Today's lengthy SBE meeting began and ended with twin power grabs targeted squarely at Ritz.

The first resolution offered by member Dan Elsener called for him to chair a new committee that is tasked with setting the goals for Indiana's education system-something that has always been within the purview of the State Superintendent's office-who also happens to be the lawful chairperson for the State Board of Education. The publicly-funded "Elsener Committee" will contract out with outside consultants, spending additional taxpayer dollars along the way to do the Department of Education's work. Elsener did not give Glenda Ritz, as chairperson, the courtesy of prior notice of his resolution and then called for action on the resolution even though it was not part of the meeting's agenda. Ritz suggested Open Door Law issues with this and then abstained from voting.

After over six hours of handling bona fide agenda items, the power grab continued with another resolution (again, with no prior notice to Ritz) indicating that the State Board of Education was hiring its own executive director, its own general counsel, and will use the Governor's new Special Assistant, charter school advocate Claire Fiddian-Green as its "technical advisor." Ritz was the sole opponent to this move.

"Both of these resolutions are thinly-disguised vehicles to wrest authority over public education policy-making from Indiana's duly-elected state superintendent and they not only disregard Glenda Ritz but the 1.3 million voters who supported her," said ISTA President Teresa Meredith.

"These attempts at discrediting, diminishing, and disrespecting Glenda Ritz and the agency she leads are partisan arrogance at the least and voter nullification at the worst," added Meredith.

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