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Education board member seeks dismissal of Ritz suit

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A member of the Indiana Board of Education asked a Marion County judge Wednesday to throw out a lawsuit filed this week by Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz in Indiana's ongoing education battle.

Ritz sued the 10 governor-appointed board members Tuesday, claiming they violated Indiana's open meetings law when they circumvented her last week in seeking school performance results for the 2012-13 school year. The board members, a mix of Republicans and Democrats, wrote a letter last week to the leaders of the General Assembly asking the bill-drafting Legislative Services Agency to run the school grades.

Each school in Indiana is graded on an A-F scale based on their students' test performance and graduation rates.

The members said Ritz is dragging her feet because she doesn't want to release the grades, but Ritz's office has said it does not have the data needed to calculate the grades. Delays have been caused in part by the ISTEP standardized testing problems earlier in the spring and by a scandal over the school evaluation system.

Tony Walker, a Democratic member of the board, filed the request for dismissal Wednesday. In it, he argues that Ritz does not establish a basis for suing him. A spokeswoman for the state board said she was unfamiliar with the latest motion.

Tensions between Ritz, a Democrat who unseated Bennett in last year's election, and the board members, including many close Bennett allies, have been growing throughout the year. The lawsuit marked the sharpest escalation yet in the ongoing power struggle.

Democratic legislative leaders said Tuesday that the board's latest move is an effort to "sidestep the law" by taking away the grades from the Department of Education. But Republican staffers, meanwhile, began circulating a video clip of Ritz at a state board meeting saying she would welcome the Legislative Services Agency's help with the grades.

"Actually, the department is more than excited about doing a check. That just makes sure what we are going to release is correct," Ritz said in the video, during a presentation from the pair of investigators who reviewed Bennett's changes to the grading formula.

The A-F grades are used to calculate teacher pay and school funding, as well as to determine if schools face a state takeover. The current grading formula is being re-crafted by a bipartisan panel of educators and political officials.

House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, and Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, appeared to request that LSA deliver the grades directly to the state board in their letter approving the move: "We would appreciate LSA providing the A-F calculations to the Board as soon as possible, so that the Board can prepare to issue grades expeditiously."

But some board members have said their intention was only to have LSA run the grades, while leaving the final issuing with the Department of Education.

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  • Come on...
    She won the election fair and square. I voted against her, and my fellow Republicans on the state Board need to respect the process and let her lead. No power grabs by appointed officals over ones elected by the people.
  • Objects if Ritz, schools not deplorable
    I voted for Ritz not for Union jobs, but the unethical method of giving charter schools to donors. The battle today is grading schools. Those who get donations from charter schools loudly demand a school grading system that gives charter schools an A+. Ritz is against rigging the school scoring to favor charter schools. Bennett rigged the grading for charters. Ritz is for grading all students and student progress, a great idea to grade students not as pass/fail but on a comprehensive score that can be monitored by year. Charter schools need to play by the same rules as public. For Pence and Mitch to say...we need school consolidation as these small public schools can't do the job....and then say we need small charter schools....well.....I see too much money from charter school lobbies. Unethical is the method we award charter schools to donors.
  • View Video of Board Meeting to Form Position
    To DC Indy - Two points: (1) Ritz was elected by Indiana voters not just union members; please don't broad brush all teachers/union members as the problem; (2) Ritz is not trying to preserve the status quo; one could argue that the Board is doing that. I have watched the videos of the Board hearings and do not see anything to support your allegations. I suggest you view them as well to help you form informed views. I say this as an Independent who does not have a dog in this unnecessary fight.
  • why then DC Indy
    Do teachers and school administrators back her? Thats the question, over 62% of them back her. Why? I dont know.
  • What This Really Is
    The press and some people are making this a Ritz vs. Republicans fight, in order to cast it as a David vs. Goliath fight, which is clever, but misleading. The Republicans are the Goliath for sure, but Ritz is no David. She holds office only because of the unions who brought out the vote to get her elected and for whom she is their bought-and-paid-for-shill. Bennett was UNETHICAL, and he's gone. She wants to protect the status quo for the benefit of the union members, which means an educational system that is DEPLORABLE and EVERYBODY KNOWS IT!! When are we going to get someone who will put our children's interests above their own?!

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