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Education battle flares between Ritz, Pence

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Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz accused Gov. Mike Pence's education staff and appointees to the State Board of Education of trying to "undermine" her efforts to secure a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Her comment came a day before the board meets to consider a pair of measures that would place new restrictions on her department and shift further powers from her to Pence's education staff. Ritz, a Democrat, accused Pence's staff of jeopardizing the No Child waiver request she submitted to the U.S. Department of Education last week.

"I have said from the start that I am a strong proponent of renewing and extending our waiver. Unfortunately, the Governor-appointed State Board of Education and his separate education staff appear determined to undermine our work," Ritz said in a prepared statement Tuesday.

But Pence's staff accused Ritz herself of jeopardizing the state's efforts to maintain the waiver and argued the changes being considered are necessary because she "shut down" a resolution from Republican board member Brad Oliver last month.

Lou Ann Baker, spokeswoman for Pence's Center for Education and Career Innovation—a competing education department created by the governor last year and the focus of most of Ritz's criticism—said Ritz had been freezing board members out of discussions on the federal waiver.

"The board clearly asked in May to have information on the waiver to discuss in a timely fashion. The board at the last meeting wanted to have a discussion—attempted to have a discussion—and the meeting was shut down by the superintendent," she told the Associated Press.

U.S. Department of Education officials alerted the state at the end of April that it was in jeopardy of losing its No Child Left Behind waiver because of problems tracking low-performing schools and the state's exit from national Common Core standards, which resulted in the need for a new standardized test compliant with federal rules.

At stake is control over a slice of the more than $200 million in federal "Title I" dollars the state receives each year.

The sparring follows fights Ritz had with Pence and some board members last year which resulted in her walking out of one meeting. Competing Ritz and Pence staff elbowed each other for the microphone at board meetings and Ritz filed a lawsuit against the other board members when they kept her out of a key decision on how the state's "A-F" school grades were calculated.

Ritz staff said Tuesday that the resolutions reminded them of an email exchange between Pence adviser Claire Fiddian-Green and other Pence staff discussing ways to either remove or diminish Ritz's role as chair of the board. Spokesman David Galvin accused Pence's staff of orchestrating a "political circus", in part with creation of a new education agency last year that has competed with Ritz and the Department of Education.

Marian University President Dan Elsener, the board member who introduced a resolution that would shift certain powers to Pence's staff, said he is not trying to fight Ritz, but instead wants clarity on board operations. He cited Ritz's decision at their last meeting not to allow Oliver to bring a measure placing new oversight on the federal No Child waiver process.

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  • Pence & Board Dysfunctional
    Having followed the actions of the Board and the Governor over the last 2 years, I simply want to throw up on all of them. They are dysfunctional at best. Luckily, the local school boards a teacher still have the most direct influence on students. Pence has truly mucked up this situation.
  • A Pox on Both Their Houses
    Just do away with the Department of Education, the State Superintendent of Education, the State Board of Education and the Governors Center for Education and Career Innovation. Return control of public education to local boards of education. Can anyone really say that our education system is better now than it was before the federal and state governments got so involved? No. Have all these federal and state agencies really proven all that beneficial to educating our children. No. They are merely means by which are elected state and federal officials can reward their benefactors (i.e., political contributors) big unions and big business at the public trough.
  • Circus
    Chaos! The taxpayer and children are paying for this joke. We don't need 2 masters degress to fix this problem. We need people who can work together and fix our educstion sysem. It's not working, at all! Of course, I'm insulting real clowns...
  • Personal Attacks
    Joe Kerr: Your personal attack on Superintendent Ritz follows the usual line to criticize her background-- but you clearly don't know that she has 2 Master's degrees and has taught students at all levels. She has worked for the betterment of education in Indiana for years. Her background and qualifications are the polar opposite of Governor Pence. If you have ever heard Glenda Ritz explain the work she is trying to do for Indiana's students, you'd back off the personal attacks and be able to see where all this chaos is coming from; Gov. Pence. Instead of respecting the voters decision to elect someone who wasn't a Republican, he is waging war-- and then smiling to the public and telling us that he's taking a stand for jobs and education. Even with the majority status, it seems that the Republicans cannot cooperate or work with anyone who wants to take leadership. This is a loss for the citizens of Indiana.
  • Get real
    Glenda Ritz wasn't elected so much as Tony Bennett was disliked. The teacher's union could have gotten a school librarian to run against him and would have won... oops, guess they did. Shows what happens when you have the lady who organizes the card catalog running the education program in this state. Too bad the Dems couldn't have nominated someone who actually understands the issues and has actually taught something to kids other than the Dewey decimal system.
    • The results are obvious
      As a resident of the state for over 50 years, we have watched as liberals have infiltrated our education system and taken it over. We have also watched our children's national standardized test scores drop like a rock while spending per student has increased dramatically. Core competencies like basic math and spelling is atrocious and educators will try to shift the blame to anyone else but themselves. The results speak for themselves and there is nowhere to hide but they continue to try to shift the blame elsewhere. Shame on them!
    • Facts
      It would behoove the IBJ to get the historical facts out and reiterated on this situation. If I recall, from IBJ articles, the issue has not been control per se but in Ritz following board direction and reporting requirements which she has apparently ignored. In prior articles, I thought there was unanimous bi-partisan support for the board members on the issues involving Ritz. It appears the articles and the commentary are framing this as a political issue when it really is a competency issue. As regards Elsener, he has a sterling reputation as an educator and innovator at The Marian University. I think the community would be hard pressed to paint his actions as political. He is well respected by democrats and republicans alike.
    • Why two Education Departments in the first place?
      Didn't the voters of Indiana elect Ritz to head the Department of Education? Then why did Pence establish a competing board? Looks like only to undermine the individual we elected. Makes the taxpayers foot the bill twice and gets nothing done. Pathetic and transparent.
    • New John birch Society
      The new governor's boy got beat out of his job by somebody that knows the meaning and methodology of education. That's what this whole mess boils down to. The new "John Birch Society" can't stand to have a socialist that's sympathetic to students and tax payers, poking around in their wood pile. This makes them look weak and ignorant in the eyes of their billionaire benefactors. They need to change that by hook or by crook, no matter what the public thinks. The exciting thing about all this, for me, is that from now on, following tea party orders, instead of doing the right thing for the students and the tax payers is the biggest claim to fame these jack asses will ever get.

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