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Teachers blast committee move to limit Ritz’s power

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – A committee in the Indiana House of Representatives voted in favor of a bill Thursday that would lead to the removal of State School Superintendent Glenda Ritz as chairman of the State Board of Education.

Ritz is a Democrat who is at odds with Republican appointees on the State Board of Education.

The governor thinks the way to address that stalemate is to remove Ritz as chairman and put one of his appointees in control.

Current law says that the state superintendent automatically serves as chair of the board of ed.

Ritz showed up in person to challenge the plan to remove her when it came up in the House Committee.

She read a prepared statement and then walked out without taking questions, unusual behavior for any witness in a legislative committee.

“This political power move of House Bill 1609 and other similar bills,” Ritz told the committee, “is unnecessary and will do nothing to resolve the real governance issues that this policy making body must address.”

Ritz aide John Barnes stayed to answer the questions that would otherwise go to her.

“We feel like the tensions in the board meetings have for the most part been manufactured by the governor’s appointments,” said Barnes, “and that that gives an excuse to remove the Superintendent.”

The bill permits the board to elect its own chairman and the committee passed it on a party line vote with eight Republicans voting yes and three Democrats voting no.

“It’s our job here today and hopefully later on the floor to make sure that we continue to enact policy that allows the department of education to, without any acrimony or dysfunction, implement the policies that we have put into place,” Rep. Jud McMillin, (R) – Brookville and the bill’s sponsor, said.

Teachers’ groups blasted the move, saying it runs counter to what voters wanted in electing Ritz in 2012.

“They want their voice heard on the governing body that makes decisions about our schools and what we have to teach in them and we want her to remain as that chair of the state board of education,” Katie Hoffman, a language arts teacher at Center Grove Middle School Central, said.

The bill is now headed to the full House for consideration and passage is all but guaranteed with the Republican super majority in place.

It is written to take effect as soon as it becomes law which could happen in a matter of weeks.