Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

What Does The State Board of Education Chair Do?

    Members of the State Board of Education speaking during July's meeting.

    Members of the State Board of Education speaking during July’s meeting. (Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

    Earlier this month, Governor Pence dissolved the Center for Education and Career Innovation and announced he will encourage the legislature to change a law that says the state superintendent is the board of the State Board of Education. Pence wants the board to elect its own chair, citing the board’s continued tension with state superintendent Glenda Ritz.

    We’re going to explore some hypothetical situations ahead of the General Assembly’s 2015 session, to break down what it will take to make these changes to the SBOE and what that would look like.

    Changing the Law

    So, if the General Assembly votes to change this distribution of duties for the SBOE, what will it take?

    The Indiana Constitution says “there shall be a State Superintendent of Public Instruction, whose method of selection, tenure, duties and compensation shall be prescribed by law.”

    So legislators don’t need to make a Constitutional amendment, which is much more difficult, rather they would vote to change part of the Indiana Code that addresses the roles of the State Board of Education that designates the state superintendent as chair of the board.

    Senator Carlin Yoder, R-Middlebury, serves on the Senate Education Committee and says he is glad to see the Governor suggest this.

    “I think it deserves consideration and some discussion because I’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who says its working well the way it is right now,” Yoder says. “It’s just not a good concept, especially when you have opposing parties representing each side.”

    Role Of State Board of Education Chair

    As the law exists right now (our interpretation of it) there aren’t specific duties laid out in statute for the chair of the State Board of Education. The law only indicates the state superintendent serves as the chair. The meeting procedures for the SBOE however, lays out the responsibilities of chair. We’ve included the duties that are specific to the chair acting alone.

    They are:

    • Can call special meetings or cancel meetings.
    • Can convene an executive session.
    • Approve agenda items suggested by other board members.
    • Sending out agendas and supplemental materials five days before a meeting.
    • Conduct the meeting in his or her fashion, as long as every board member is allowed to participate. This includes deciding order in which board members speak, makes motions (his/her own or those of other members), leading votes,
    • Designate board members to committees.

    How Ritz’s Job Would Remain the Same

    Ritz’s job, as currently mandated by statute, includes much more than chairing the State Board of Education. If the General Assembly votes to make this change, Ritz will still keep many of her current leadership positions including:

    Removing Ritz out of her chair position would strip her of these powers at meetings, but she would still serve on the board, according to Pence’s request, and still serve as the elected state superintendent.

    Correction 12/22: In an earlier version of this post, we wrote state superintendent Glenda Ritz serves as chair of the Indiana Career Council, which is incorrect. Governor Pence is the chair, Ritz serves as a committee member. 


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