Gov. Mike Pence may have dissolved the Center for Education and Career Innovation – the education agency he himself described as having duplicate duties to the state Department of Education – but the conversation about power between State Superintendent Glenda Ritz and Pence appointees is alive and well.
During the House Education Committee Tuesday, Rep. Jeffrey Thompson, R-Lizton, introduced his bill covering a variety of education issues. Most of the bill changes language in existing education statute to shift authority or oversight from the IDOE to the State Board of Education.
Thompson told the committee he authored the bill at the request of the SBOE.
The most notable changes included in the bill:
- Establish an executive director for the board, separate from the board chair (the state superintendent currently fills this position).
- The SBOE would oversee turnaround school progress, a duty currently assigned to the IDOE.
- The SBOE would elect a secretary to manage communications and minutes between the SBOE and outside entities. Currently Ritz’s staff assumes most of these responsibilities.
- The IDOE would be in charge of collecting data for audits requested by other state agencies.
- The SBOE, not the IDOE, will establish teacher evaluation plans that school districts can adopt.
- SBOE would assume responsibility over creating new standards and setting up a schedule to update current standards.
SBOE member Brad Oliver testified before the committee and said the board members feel they are within their rights to make these changes.
“I oftentimes hear that the board is trying to usurp authority away from the state superintendent or somehow there’s a power grab,” Oliver said. “I think if you look very closely at what we’re asking for, there’s nothing here that expands beyond the scope of what you’ve already asked us to do.”
But committee member Rep. Vernon Smith, D-Gary, disagreed, saying this legislation would micromanage the Ritz-headed IDOE and is most definitely a power grab. He says he’d rather have the legislature take its time on the issue and take it to a summer study committee.
“I just think it’s wrong,” Smith said. “I think it not educationally sound for us to do this without vetting it and discussing it. This is monumental.”
The committee will revisit HB 1486 during its meeting Thursday, as well as looking at a bill that would make the state superintendent an appointed position.