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House Backs Bill Removing Ritz

Indiana Department of Education.

The House passed a bill Monday to remove the state superintendent as chair of the State Board of Education, a move some say is politically motivated.

Historically, the state superintendent has automatically assumed the position of state board  chair. This bill changes the law defining that responsibility, allowing board members to elect a  chair from within their ranks.  

The word “dysfunction” has appeared in countless descriptions of board relations since current  State Superintendent Glenda Ritz, a Democrat, took office.

She frequently butts heads with  board members, and the figure who appoints them – Republican Governor Mike Pence – on  anything from policy matters to board procedure.  

House Republicans say this bill will make the board functional once again.

Speaker Brian Bosma stepped down from his podium to make a rare appearance on behalf of the measure.

"This has gone from dysfunctional to now detrimental to students," says Bosma, "detriment for that matter to  teachers and parents, and it’s very clear to me where that dysfunction and detriment lies." 

But Democrats are upset their counterparts are passing legislation out of spite.

"Superintendent Ritz was independently elected," says House minority leader Scott Pelath. "She got more votes than Governor Pence.  You’re saying that the people don’t matter. You’re saying that the bureaucrats ought to be the  ones determining what happens in classrooms."

The bill now heads to the Indiana Senate.