Ms. Ritz has accused the governor of creating a new education agency to undermine her office. Mr. Pence says that was not his aim. But the tension, months in the making, has boiled over at monthly State Board of Education meetings, where Ms. Ritz and board members, who are appointed by the governor, continue to wrestle for control over the state’s education policies.
In recent weeks, Ms. Ritz, the state superintendent of public instruction, has sued the board, walked out of a meeting to prevent a vote and accused Mr. Pence of orchestrating a subversive “power grab” against the Department of Education…Critics have called the agency unneeded and its purpose unclear, a layer of bureaucracy added by a governor who typically favors small government. But board members said the move was necessary, accusing the superintendent of dragging her feet on issues that she campaigned against, like a new performance grading system for schools…
The first sign of a divorce between the Department of Education and the board came in May when Mr. Pence signed a larger spending bill that separated the two bodies. When he created C.E.C.I. in August, Ms. Ritz said, she learned about the initiative on the day of the announcement, despite having met with the governor just days before.
“The governor is trying to act like he’s out of the fray,” said Brian Howey, the editor of Howey Politics Indiana, a newsletter. “But at the same time his appointees are doing all this maneuvering.” Mr. Howey also said Democrats may use the feud to fuel supporters in some 2014 legislative elections.
Defending himself last month in an op-ed article that ran in newspapers across the state, Mr. Pence denied that the move had been political and said his new center “breaks down the silos” between the state’s education and work force responsibilities and “does so without taking any authority away from the Department of Education.”