Dispute sends Indiana education meeting debate into chaos

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- A meeting that was expected to produce a new plan for grading Indiana schools turned chaotic Wednesday when the state's top education official stormed out, escalating an already testy battle with Republican Gov. Mike Pence.

Democratic Superintendent Glenda Ritz abruptly left the meeting of the state school board she chairs when a Pence appointee tried to transfer certain student assessment powers from her office to a second education department created by the governor earlier this year.

"This meeting is adjourned," Ritz said repeatedly, while packing her things and walking out. Department of Education staff quickly followed suit, while leaders of Pence's second education department and the other board members stayed put. It is unclear whether Ritz ended the meeting.

Indiana's "A-F" school grading formula was investigated after an Associated Press report showed Ritz's predecessor, Tony Bennett, changed the rules to raise the grade of a political donor's charter school from a "C" to an "A" last year. Bennett resigned his job as Florida's schools chief amid the scandal.

The explosion Wednesday was the latest in an acrid battle, marked by a lawsuit Ritz filed - but dropped last week - against other school board members over control of the state's school grading formula.

At stake is control of Indiana's education system and the sweeping education changes put in place by Bennett and former Gov. Mitch Daniels. Indiana Republicans approved the nation's most sweeping school voucher law in 2011 and have expanded on it somewhat, in addition to dozens of other changes long sought by conservative education reformers.

Former Bennett staffers have accused Ritz of targeting Bennett with a series of public records releases. The Associated Press obtained campaign fundraising lists Bennett and his staff kept on state computers.

The other members of the state board, a bipartisan group all appointed by Pence or Daniels, have accused Ritz of dragging her feet in implementing laws she openly campaigned against last year.

Board meetings have become a political circus, with Ritz refusing to recognize board members and those members frequently talking over her. Lawyers for the competing Ritz and Pence education departments have even offered competing legal advice to the board, while jockeying for control of the sole microphone reserved for witnesses to the board.

After Ritz left Wednesday, another board member, Republican Brad Oliver, said he was withdrawing the motion that sparked the fight. The motion would have moved facets of the state's career and college prep testing to Pence's second education department.

"I don't want to exacerbate this," Oliver said.

It's unclear whether the meeting was formally in progress at the time Oliver withdrew his motion, or whether Ritz had successfully ended it. Meetings are typically ended through a motion to adjourn, followed by a "second" support of the motion and a vote by the board.

Print this article Back to Top

Comments

or Subscribe now so you can share your opinion! It’s only a penny for a month trial.

Latest Forecast
More Education
Preschool funding can't keep up with the need
Preschool funding can't keep up with the need

http://www.uwgc.org Head Start funding is flat again this year, leaving more children from low-income families without the means to attend a…

UC scholarship aims to solve third-world crises
UC scholarship aims to solve third-world crises

James O'Reilly, a UC public health and law professor, has established a scholarship to help students from Third World countries…

Column: Cincinnati needs universal preschool
Column: Cincinnati needs universal preschool

My wife Sarah and I have been blessed with two amazing children, both of whom attend quality preschool.  We can afford it, but most…

NKY community dinners leave kids hungry to learn
NKY community dinners leave kids hungry to learn

Northern Kentucky program to get kids ready for kindergarten, that starts with dinner, expands across state with $1.4 million boost.

Young parents get second chance at degrees
Young parents get second chance at degrees

Cincinnati State provides a crucial boon to adult students by offering quality preschool and daycare on campus. 

Babies going hungry, Freestore aims to stem tide
Babies going hungry, Freestore aims to stem tide

Three out of 10 families that use Children's Hospital's health clinic have trouble getting enough food on a monthly basis, posing an…

Life lessons taught at foster care camp
Life lessons taught at foster care camp

Foster care youths at Camp Joy recently kicked off a new year of a program designed to help them be successful in foster care and beyond.

Don't call it a local spy school, but it's close
Don't call it a local spy school, but it's close

UC says its new connection with the National Security Agency has nothing to do with spying and everything to do with fighting cyber crime and…

Tuition at most Ohio universities to rise again
Tuition at most Ohio universities to rise again

Tuition at 11 of Ohio's 13 traditional, four-year public universities will rise this fall.

Quartet throws a pie in face of cyberbullying
Quartet throws a pie in face of cyberbullying

Back to school is not far off. So, The Cream Pies decided to put their talents to work for an anti-bullying campaign.