Education

Ch 1: Ritz & Pence, Ch 2: SBOE & CECI, Ch 3: ISTA & NASBE

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November 15, 2013 – The publicly political conflict between Indiana’s Superintendent of Public Instruction and the Governor has a few new exchanges today.

Governor Mike Pence has sent a letter to Superintendent Glenda Ritz and other State Board of Education (SBOE) members, inviting a third party’s involvement to resolve political differences.  That move itself seemed to cause a larger political gap, seen as an unnecessary political move intended to get the Board to abdicate some measure of its authority to the Governor.

Ritz says Pence created the Center for Education and Career Innovation (CECI) to take authority from the State Department of Education, routing his takeover plan through the State Board of Education which she chairs.  She sued several Board members last month when she said they acted illegally to involve a third party in Board oversight and governance responsibilities, undermining the Board itself and circumventing her authority as Board chair.

After a judge dismissed her lawsuit one week ago because she had not used the State’s Attorney General for her legal representation in the case, this week she prematurely adjourned the Board’s next meeting when she said an “improper motion” was proposed that she insists came from outside the Board, coming from the Pence Administration’s CECI.

That meeting coincided Wednesday with an editorial Ritz authored that was published in newspapers and online, criticizing Pence and the CECI for her perceptions of his abuse of authority as a “threat to our children.”

The Governor supplied a rebuttal editorial yesterday, and another party, the Indiana State Teachers Association (ISTA), offered its commentary today supporting Ritz.

Pence’s letter today, Letter From Governor Mike Pence to SBOE 11-15-13, informed State Board of Education members that he has asked the National Association of State Boards of Education to “facilitate a discussion within the Indiana State Board of Education to clarify its roles and responsibilities and reach a common understanding regarding the governance procedures,” suggesting any political discord is internal to the Board, detached from the Pence Administration.

The Governor positioned his office as a supportive third party, offering, “Our Administration is prepared to provide any and all resources and assistance needed to coordinate the process, and I hope the Board will consider this sincere offer to engage NASBE in resolving these present difficulties.”

Ritz’s office responded to today’s letter by Pence when State Board of Education Press Secretary Daniel Altman issued the following statement:

“Superintendent Ritz has previously requested that the Board meet for orientation where some of these issues could have been addressed.  She has said repeatedly that the source of this conflict is not with individual board members, but with the Governor’s newly created education agency.

“If Governor Pence is serious about resolving this issue, he needs to engage with Superintendent Ritz directly rather than through the media.  For the Governor to claim that this can be resolved without his direct involvement shows that he simply has not been listening.

“The Governor and Superintendent Ritz need to speak about this matter before involving any outside parties.  Superintendent Ritz looks forward to working with the Governor to resolve this current issue.”

 

The Indiana State Teachers Association statement follows:

November 15, 2013

Dear Editor,

At this week’s meeting of the Indiana State Board of Education, Hoosiers saw the result of both Gov. Mike Pence’s own actions and those of his appointed board members.

Through his executive order creating a duplicate and costly agency to parallel the Department of Education (IDOE) and through the State Board’s continued attempts to shift IDOE responsibility to that new bureaucracy, the authority of duly-elected State Superintendent of Glenda Ritz continues to be undermined.

That new agency, the Center for Education and Career Innovation (CECI) became a $5 million burden to taxpayers in a state that continues to cut funding to vital public school programs.  In its second year, the cost is projected to increase to $9 million.   Four of the CECI’s top employees are receiving six-figure salaries – substantially higher pay than the state superintendent receives. And considerably more salary than the average Hoosier brings home.

For decades, Indiana has experienced cooperation between governors and State Superintendents from different political parties. Indiana was the model of collaboration among its political leaders. Suddenly, Pence created this agency to diminish the authority of Ritz and transfer much of the responsibility of the Department of Education to this shadow agency headed by employees appointed by him.

Under his executive order, incredibly the governor has also taken it upon himself to declare that the funds taken for other purposes to create the CECI are non-reverting funds-meaning if monies are not spent at the end of the year, they stay with the agency.  There, he’s stepping on the toes of Indiana’s duly-elected legislators.

Not only is Pence ignoring the will of the 1.3 million voters who last year elected Glenda Ritz, he has created an unnecessary state agency with expansive and undefined powers and it is the existence of the CECI that is creating gridlock in state education policy making.

Hoosiers need their governor to respect taxpayers, voters, and the officials who voters elect to office.  He needs to rescind his executive order creating the CECI and encourage his appointees to the State Board of Education to work cooperatively with Superintendent Ritz and her staff to move our state and our schools forward.

Hoosiers are tired of government gridlock and are watching for action.  Don’t be fooled by the words we’ve heard so far touting gubernatorial efforts to work together.  Remember the lesson we teach our children from the time they are very young:  Actions speak louder than words.

Teresa Meredith, ISTA President

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