We don’t envy the box Gov. Mike Pence has put himself in. Less than a year ago, he personally voiced a “willingness” to work with Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz, acknowledging again the desire of a majority of Hoosier voters to see Ritz’s vision for Indiana classrooms carried out.
Since then, the governor undermined Ritz’s Department of Education by creating a duplicative education bureaucracy, called The Center for Education and Career Innovation, which is stacked with staffers earning six-figure salaries. He also has appointed a State Board of Education that spends its meetings sharpening political axes, further proof the governor is actually less than willing to work with Ritz.
Recently, the superintendent has worked tirelessly and transparently on a waiver allowing the state to bypass outdated federal education law laid out by the No Child Left Behind Act. The completed flexibility waiver is all available for the public to digest on the department’s website and was submitted in a timely manner. Fast forward to a recent State Board of Education meeting where Pence’s allies launched an all-out offensive against Ritz.
State board members moved forward on unilaterally rewriting the board’s operating rules in an effort to curb Ritz’s rightful position as chair of the board. They moved to add unnecessary provisions to Ritz’s flexibility waiver and continued to funnel Department of Education responsibilities to CECI.
Real education advocates don’t spend their time basking in the sun copping for attention. Our experience has taught us those truly seeking to make meaningful change in the classroom work collaboratively with students, teachers and parents, not directing their efforts to needlessly inject conflict.
Folks are tired of politics as usual. This latest meeting of the State Board of Education was an exhibition of blatant partisan politics and obstructionism against Superintendent Ritz. It’s our hope the governor takes a hard look at this situation and works to rein in board members’ rhetoric and restore that “willingness” to work with Ritz for the benefit of our children. We have worked with Pence on other important issues; thus far he has proven to be a man of his word. This new conflict will be another test. Hoosiers are watching.