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Ritz expects GOP effort to diminish her authority

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Indiana Schools Superintendent Glenda Ritz, a Democrat, said Wednesday she is wary of what she sees as a broad effort by Republicans to strip her power, amid growing tension between her and the State Board of Education she nominally chairs.

"I just think there will probably be things coming through the legislative process that will try to diminish my power as superintendent," Ritz said Wednesday. "They could include removing me as the chair of the board; they could include overseeing more of my budget; they could include overseeing of data."

Ritz's comments followed the first meeting Wednesday of a committee that was started despite her objections to set new goals for the Board of Education. But tension has grown in recent months between Ritz and board members who backed the education overhaul pushed by former Schools Superintendent Tony Bennett and former Gov. Mitch Daniels.

Ritz campaigned hard last year against new laws including limits on collective bargaining for teachers, school vouchers and a school grading system. But board members who support those changes, such as Dan Elsener, have scrapped with her recently.

Elsener caught Ritz off guard last month when he established a strategy planning committee to guide the board. Ritz fired back at a state board meeting last week, overruling a procedural request from Elsener to alter the board's agenda.

Indiana's school superintendent chairs the board of education, but a power struggle has ensued since her surprise victory in last year's election. The strategy panel created by Elsener, with support from every board member except Ritz, will determine where the board focuses its efforts over the next three years.

Elsener pointed out that Wednesday's relatively staid meeting was evidence there's more collegiality on the board than there might appear from recent dust-ups.

"I thought today was very pleasant, and I thought that the board members — whether they're governor-appointed or elected — worked quite intelligently and swiftly," he said. "If there are personal differences ... the heck with that. Let's focus on children."

Ritz attended the afternoon meeting but said little.

Pence and Republican lawmakers, who supported Bennett's and Daniels' education overhaul, made a change in the state budget earlier this year that shifted $5 million for staffing the state board from Ritz's office to the governor's. Staffing for the state board now comes from a new agency Pence created in August to coordinate career training and education. Critics have derided it as a second education department to get around Ritz.

More blatant efforts to shift control of education from Ritz's office were curbed during the honeymoon period earlier this year between newly elected officials. Measures filed by Bennett's former chief of staff, state Rep. Todd Huston, R-Fishers, that would have overhauled the board of education and altered the Indiana Education Roundtable were unsuccessful.

Lawmakers return to the Capitol in January for the 2014 session.

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  • Who Cares, Teachers do!
    Brenda is only trying to fulfill her obligations as an elected official. All the while the Republicans left behind by their beloved TONY BENNETT (remember him?)are wishing for the old days when TONY and Mitch had the whole playground to themselves where they could do favors for big campaign contributors. Try commenting about something that you know about.
  • who are you calling a shill
    It is obvious from your comment that you never set foot in a classroom as an educator. The evil union you describe happens to be made up of folks that you go to church with and live next to. Teachers have taken the brunt of the low pay, cuts in benefits, children from broken backgrounds and they try to make the best of it. What do you do, besides defend the know-it-all fat cats who want to keep their foot on the teachers' throats ?
  • Cut the pop politiics
    When you present a Republican or Tea Party blowhard with a relevant question or a reasonable argument they ALWAYS fall back on the "sacred" concept of "to heck with that, its all about the kids" They say that while the undermine the Elected Official chosen by the the voters. Meanwhile, thanks to their ignorant, selfish, tactics, the children do suffer. After a lifetime in education I am saddened to see these brutes still up to their politically motivated tactics. Hey, BOYS ! Tony Bennett got sent packing.. remember. Next Election is your turn.
  • Voters Not Represented
    A board appointed by a Governor is trying to override the will of the people who elected Ritz. As an Independent, I am sickened by the right-wing ideology that keeps showing up in their statements and actions. Ritz was not elected by strictly union voters since they are small in numbers these days. The Education Board needs to let her do her job rather continually fight her. This situation is almost as disgusting as the right-wing Republican efforts as the federal level. Yuk!
  • Bungling
    There's no GOP plot involving GOV. Pence, the Tea Party, and Republicans. That would imply that they can govern and organize anything without bungling everything up. They're hopeless.
  • No surprise there
    Come on, do we have to portray everything as some evil Republican plot involving Pence, Washington Republicans (who have far bigger issues to deal with) and the Tea Party? Face it, even the Democrat, Mr. Elsner recognizes that Superintendent Ritz only holds her office because she was elected through union support, is and always has been their bought and paid for shill, and is thus interested primarily in advancing the interests of teachers.
    • Who cares
      Ritz seems to be spending more time trying to embarrass her predecessor and former Governor Mitch Daniels than doing what she was elected to do.
      • The Dems aren't great but these Conservatives are terrible.
        I'm not thrilled that it seems Tea Party & GOP Gov. Mike Pence is treating the Education of Indiana's Children as some sort of political game. I guess we shouldn't be surprised if you look at the Republicans on a National level...Extremism & Cronyism are par for the course.

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