Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Indiana Still Needs Elected Superintendent of Public Instruction

Glenda Ritz
Glenda Ritz made news again yesterday when her office announced that the Superintendent of Public Instruction had filed suit against the State Board of Education over the alleged violation of Indiana's Open Door Law.  You can find more on the lawsuit here.

That's just the latest battle between Ritz and the Pence Administration, and I'm behind her 100 percent because I think is the kind of thing that Glenda Ritz was elected to do.  She was elected to look out for students in Indiana public schools.  She was also given an oath to uphold state law.  She arrived in office with a tremendous mandate because she not only beat the more well-financed incumbent superintendent, Tony Bennett, but she also received more votes than Mike Pence.

What's emerging, however, from Ritz detractors is a replay of the 2004 Superintendent of Public Instruction race.  That year, Joe Kernan (and I believe Mitch Daniels, too) ran on a platform that the SPI position should be appointed and not elected.  Democratic candidate Susan Williams ran on the wacky platform that she would resign immediately upon her election to the office and allow whoever was the Governor to appoint the new SPI.

Dr. Suellen Reed
I remember thinking at the time, why run for something if you're just going to give it up?  I also thought that there should be a somewhat more independent voice for education in Indiana.  I voted for Suellen Reed that year, and I'd do it again.  Dr. Reed won the election and served another four years in office with a sometimes less than warm relationship with Governor Mitch Daniels.

In 2008, Daniels and the GOP plucked a Southern Indiana superintendent out of obscurity and made him the Republican candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction.  That, of course, was the guy we know now as Tony Bennett.  The "so-called" rock star of the education reform movement that barely beat Dr. Richard Wood and then lost to Glenda Ritz.

All of this is past history.  We still have an elected Superintendent of Public Instruction in Indiana because the Indiana General Assembly has made it so.  Because of state law, they can take that vote away from us at any time.  If that happens, there will be no chance for the voters to speak on education and the direction of education reform in the state.  Instead, it will get lost in the larger race for Governor of Indiana every four years.

Dr. Tony Bennett
Many supporters of the movement to appoint the Superintendent of Public Instruction say that it would take politics out of education.  I disagree.  You are never ever going to get politics out of education under our current system.  It's just not going to happen.  Appointing the Superintendent of Public Instruction won't change the fact that it's going to be a political appointment.  Appointed just makes no sense to me.

It's likely that this upcoming General Assembly session that the power to elect our Superintendent of Public Instruction will be taken away from us come 2016.  I just feel it.  This would be another mistake by the Indiana General Assembly.  Hoosiers had substantive concerns about education in 2012.  Those concerns were so big that they sent the Republican incumbent for Superintendent of Public Instruction packing.


Jeff McQuary said...

I'm glad the Superintendant is suing over the Open Door violation, but as an elected official she shouldn't have sued the SBOE in her own name. Her suit may be dismissed because only the Attorney General can sue on behalf of the State. She should have found a private citizen to be the Plaintiff. If she can find a private citizen to be the Plaintiff, I would represent that person pro bono.

Anonymous said...

So, say the General Assembly takes away the power to elect a State Superintendent prior to 2016, Glenda Ritz can't run again! What's left but for her to directly challenge Pence and run against him for Governor. I don't think that Pence will allow that to happen, unless Ritz declares a run against him regardless. #Ritz2016! Twitter: @Ritz4Gov

Patricia Howey said...

Can't we get Richard Wood to run again for Superintendent of Public Instruction in Indiana?