Tensions continued to flare Monday as the Senate Rules Committee debated and then passed legislation to alter the composition of the Indiana State Board of Education and demote the superintendent as its chair.
Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, author of Senate Bill 1, said few voters know that when they elect someone into the superintendent of public instruction position, they also are voting that person to be the chair of the education board.
As amended on Monday, the bill would reduce the board from its current 11 seats to nine. It would give the governor authority to appoint four board members and the committee chair. Two members would be chosen by the Speaker of the House and two members to be chosen by the Senate Pro Tempore – both with consultation from minority leaders. Both legislative leaders are required to appoint a Republican and a Democrat.
Half of the board members are required to have experience in education.
“I think one of the issues has to do with the size of the board itself. Smaller boards tend to be more effective than larger boards,” Holdman said.
Holdman said the bill doesn’t strip the state superintendent of her power because she would still be considered the CEO of the Indiana Department of Education.
But opponents of the bill said that making the chair an appointed position isn’t fair to voters.
“I voted for Glenda Ritz and I knew exactly what I was doing when I voted for her,” said Christina Fry, a parent of a first grader who testified. “I am frankly a bit disturbed to hear the idea, ‘well, voters didn’t really know what they were electing her to.’”
The bill passed the Senate Rules Committee 7-4 and will now heads to the full Senate. A similar bill is moving in the Indiana House.