Ritz Releases Email Exhibiting Power Struggle
By Mike Perleberg
(Indianapolis, Ind.) – Despite a meeting with a mediator Wednesday, the rift between Democrat Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz, the State Board of Education, and Governor Mike Pence only seems to be widening.
With the unveiling of an internal email Wednesday, the state superintendent is further asserting her belief that the governor – whom she received more votes than in the November 2012 election – is seeking to reduce her ability to influence Indiana’s education policy.
Ritz – the chairperson of the SBOE – sued the largely Republican-appointed board in November alleging there was a decision made by board members outside of a public meeting and without her to allow the Legislative Services Agency to figure preliminary A-to-F school grades, a task usually reserved for the Indiana Department of Education, which Ritz oversees. She later walked out on a board meeting when she denied an agenda item regarding Pence’s newly-formed Center for Education and Career Innovation taking more department responsibilities.
Last week, Ritz and Pence agreed to have the state superintendent and the board of education sit down with a mediator. That meeting took place Wednesday with the National Association of State Boards of Education serving as the mediator of a discussion on roles, responsibilities, and the operations of the SBOE.
But following the meeting, Ritz released an October 3rd e-mail which exhibited her position that Pence’s CECI is seeking to have her removed as the SBOE chairperson and lessen her authority.
“Last year, I was elected to lead the Indiana Department of Education and chair the State Board of Education,” said Superintendent Ritz. “This document shows that the CECI is attempting to change a governing structure that has worked for over 100 years, under both Democrats and Republicans.”
In the CECI attorney’s email Ritz shared with the media was a draft of the center’s so-called roadmap. In a section titled “SBOE Chair”, the proposal stated Ritz’s position as the board chair “introduces real as well as perceived conflicts of interest” and that the board chair should be appointed by the governor.
The proposal’s analysis of the current situation with Ritz and board determined that Ritz is interpreting the role of the board chair too broadly in her acceptance and rejection of agenda items. The analysis did state that making such a change “may have substantial political fallout.”
A Pence spokeswoman, Kara Brooks, told the Indianapolis Star following the email’s release that Ritz’s accusation is “ridiculous.” Brooks said the governor squashed the idea of appointing the board chair immediately when it was brought to him in October.
Brooks also told the newspaper that Pence told Ritz during a private meeting last week that he will not seek to alter state statute regarding the board chair.
Ritz said she is committed to ensuring that the elected Office of the Superintendent continues to serve as board chair.