State Education Feud Moves from Legal to Political

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November 13, 2013 — Indiana’s Superintendent of Public Instruction is defending her actions today to adjourn a State Board of Education meeting prematurely.

Glenda Ritz says she has requested an opinion from Indiana’s Attorney General about a motion that caused the meeting to end.

She says the motion is improper because it came from outside the Board of Education.  Ritz says it came from the Governor’s Center for Education and Career Innovation.

Today she criticized Governor Mike Pence for creating the Center, saying he’s trying to take authority from the state’s education board.  Her criticism was in an editorial today in the Northwest Indiana Times and other newspapers.

Ritz is a former educator and a Democrat who defeated Republican incumbent Tony Bennett last year in the same election when pence won his position.

Today, the Indiana State Teachers Association supported Ritz, suggesting pence forgot that the same voters elected them both.

Indiana’s Republican Party criticized Ritz, saying she walked out on the board meeting to have a news conference about calling Pence a “threat to our children.”

That comment was the closing line to Ritz’s editorial, and Governor Pence has an open letter about his position, available here:  Mike Pence letter after Ritz editorial.

This week’s political feud follows a legal dispute that went to Marion Circuit Court last week, where a judge granted Attorney General Greg Zoeller’s request to dismiss a lawsuit filed there by Ritz against ten Board of Education members.  That lawsuit claimed that those members violated state law by taking action in her absence.  The judge did not rule on the validity of her claim, while ruling in favor of Zoeller’s position that the Attorney General’s office has the responsibility to file legal claims on behalf of state agencies, and his office was not used by Ritz as her legal counsel in her filing.

Gary attorney Tony Walker was one of the defendants in Ritz’s lawsuit, and he sent a letter asking her to discontinue her legal proceeding, which continued, causing him to retain legal counsel, and Zoeller also challenged his usage of a private lawyer in that matter.

Walker says he was not present at today’s Board of Education meeting.  He says he’s committed to the Board, supporting it and Superintendent Ritz to find common ground and commitment to resolving differences, while noting that Ritz, as the Board’s chair, “can’t just leave the meeting.”

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