Monday, November 25, 2013

Republicans Seem Set to Undermine Ritz

Superintendent Glenda Ritz
Last November, voters went to the polls and voted in overwhelming numbers for Glenda Ritz for Superintendent of Public Instruction.

The voters, who overwhelmingly gave Mitt Romney Indiana's electoral votes, sent Republican incumbent Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Bennett, packing.  Unfortunately, for Ritz, the voters also installed an Indiana House supermajority to go along with the supermajority already present in the Indiana Senate.  The voters also, in a closer-than-expected race elected Mike Pence as Governor of Indiana.

It was an electoral coup and an indictment of the policies of Superintendent Bennett, but it did not go far enough.  It did not remove enough Republican power that the GOP could not still control education policy in the state.  The Indiana Constitution makes Indiana's General Assembly so strong.

For all its greatness, the Indiana Constitution says little about the job of Superintendent of Public Instruction.  It just states that there must be one.  The Indiana General Assembly has control of the duties of the office as well as the manner in which the occupant of that office is selected.

Glenda Ritz lives on a blue island in a sea of red at the Statehouse.  She is surrounded by Republicans, and she even finds the folks who are from her own party who are on the State Board of Education appointed, not by her, but by the Governor.  

It's like being the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys.  Your name is on the door, but someone else is running the team.

The Republicans at the Statehouse are determined pretty much to move forward with the status quo and ignore what happened in November of 2012.  They write Ritz off as being the anti-Bennett.  They refuse to realize that what happened to Bennett could happen to just about any one of them.

Ritz has nothing to lose, but the Republicans do.  They have a supermajority to protect, and Mike Pence has higher aspirations.  As many have pointed out, Governor Pence's response to the election of Ritz was to create his own shadow Department of Education.  Yep, the small government conservative with an aversion for spending has created his own state agency likely because he can't control the Department of Education. 

So, when Glenda Ritz gets vilified for walking out of a meeting, realize that she's not really in control.  The rules of the game have changed since January.  She's no longer given the same leeway that her predecessor was, and it's all political.  

Voters voted for a change of course, but the Republicans are going to great lengths to keep the status quo.  The upcoming 2014 session of the General Assembly bears watching.  Superintendent Ritz deserves the same respect that her predecessor got.  Instead, she's likely going to end up a figurehead because the Republican Party won't work with her.

If that happens, let's hope that 2014 gives Ritz some friends at the Statehouse.

1 comment:

guy77money said...

So darn disappointed in Mike Pence. What happened to that thoughtful guy who used to do that great radio show! Can you say WASHINGTON Mr Rogers! ;) The Republicans don't seem to be listening to the people. Come on Democrat's it's time for you to stand up and realize you have a real candidate for Governor. She's a ex teacher she can multitask. Maybe she can bring some intelligent young political minds to the table of the old tired Indiana Democratic party! Here's your chance guys and girls because thanks to Obama Care the democrats are going to get slaughtered in the next election. Ritz can stem the tide and it will be harder to override a governor. I suspect the Democrats can come up with a replacement for Ritz. There's lots of excellent teachers in the world!