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Bill to cut Ritz’s power advances

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – The bill to remove State School Superintendent Glenda Ritz as chairman of the State Board of Education is one step closer to becoming law despite objections of union leaders.

“To say that we’re putting politics aside is just strictly laughable,” said Sally Sloan of the American Federation of Teachers. “That’s exactly what’s going on with this bill.”

Ritz is at odds with the Republican super majorities in the General Assembly and there is little she can do to fight back, except to cry foul.

That’s what the Democratic superintendent did at a committee hearing in January but Thursday she didn’t even show up, instead sending an aide to plead her case.

“We believe that this bill is the product of a very bad political decision on the part of the governor,” said John Barnes.

Governor Mike Pence made the bill that permits the state board to elect its chairman a priority in December and Republicans aren’t backing down, even though most of the testimony came from Ritz supporters.

“Let’s be clear, the battle over who shall chair the State Board of Education is a skirmish,” said retired educator Vic Smith, “in a greater war about whether a strong public education system built over the last hundred years will survive in Indiana.”

The bill to cut Glenda Ritz’s power now goes to the full House.

It has already passed both Houses in one form or another. Lawmakers are now working out what the final version will be.

It is a big change. It was pointed out Thursday that the Superintendent has served as board chair since 1913.