Indiana

Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Senate Kills Bill To Appoint State Superintendent

Senate President Pro Tempore David Long, R-Fort Wayne, left, and House Speaker Brian Bosma, are in support of making the state superintendent an appointed position. But today, the Senate killed a bill that would make that happy.

Senate President Pro Tempore David Long (R-Fort Wayne), left, and House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis), are in support of making the state superintendent an appointed position. But today, the Senate killed a bill that would make that happen. (photo credit: Dan Goldblatt / Indiana Public Media)

Republican and Democratic senators voted down a bill Monday that would have changed the Superintendent of Public Instruction from an elected position to an appointed one.

This session, both the House and Senate sponsored bills to make the state’s highest education official an appointed position, and Monday, the Senate voted down its version of the bill, with 17 Republicans joining all of the Democrats in voting against it. The final vote was 23-26.

Senate President Pro Tem David Long spoke in favor of the bill, saying the head of the Department of Education should be chosen by the governor, just like every other department head in the state.

“Only 13 states, including Indiana, elect their superintendent, and only nine, including Indiana, make it a partisan election,” Long says.

Sen. Luke Kenley (R-Noblesville) voted against the bill and says it could result in major policy swings each time a new governor enters office.

“In the long run, that will be more harmful to education, than some kind of stable, checks and balances, you have to fight each other over this to get a result done,” Kenley says.

Making the state superintendent an appointed position rather than an elected official has been a long term goal for Republicans, including Gov. Eric Holcomb and many of his predecessors.

This issue was a discussion point in previous sessions, and prompted a dramatic discussion because many Democrats said it was a way for Republicans to get rid of former state superintendent Glenda Ritz, who often clashed with Republicans. But supporters of the bill this year say the desire to make the position appointed was bigger than one person.

Later in the day Monday, the similar House Bill 1005 passed out of the House
to the Senate by a vote of 68-29.

House Speaker and author Brian Bosma refused to say whether his
legislation was doomed by the Senate vote. Senate rules dictate, if a
bill receives as many no votes as SB 179 did, nothing similar may be
heard in either chamber.

“Somehow, someway, some of those items come back together,” he said
about legislation in years past that has faced a similar defeat in one
chamber.

Bosma said there are ways to bypass the Senate to get the legislation
onto the governor’s desk, such as adding the language into the House
budget.

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