Thursday, September 5, 2013

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #152 – September 4, 2013

Dear Friends,

The State Board will meet this morning for the first time since Gov. Pence’s power move on August 23rd to put the State Board in a new state agency. The full implications of this move are not clear. This seismic change in state education policy was camouflaged by focusing the announcement on career education, but the real change is putting the State Board under the new agency and removing it from the Department of Education and State Superintendent Ritz. The fact that Superintendent Ritz was not informed in advance of this major change appears to confirm that this is one more step by the Governor to reduce the influence of State Superintendent Ritz.

Budget Appropriations

The magnitude of this story has clearly been underreported by the press. One story that appeared after Gov. Pence’s press conference on August 23rd said that the new agency would have a budget of $5 million and a staff of 16. In the budget passed last April, the State Board was given $3,010,716; the Education Roundtable was given $750,000; and the Works Councils were given $1,000,000. That adds up to just under $5 million.

Past Governors have asserted their control over the State Board by controlling the votes of individual members. It is not clear why this Governor felt the need to go beyond these past practices to change the relationship between the State Board and the State Superintendent. Key questions linger about the future:
1) What will the Governor gain by putting the State Board in an agency separate from the Department of Education?

2) How will this impact the working relationship between the Department of Education and the State Board?

3) Did legislators who control the purse strings and oversee education policy for Indiana have any input into this major change?

4) Will this either speed up or slow down the policy work related to Common Core and the new A-F system?

5) If the Education Roundtable is controlled by the new agency, will the legal role of the State Superintendent as co-chair be diminished?

6) If the State Board is independent, will the State Superintendent’s role as chair of the State Board be diminished?
A Clash of Visions for Education

The importance of this change was underscored by the fact that Glenda Ritz was not informed in advance about this new agency. When the story broke and the snub of Glenda Ritz became a big part of the story, I was told that Gov. Pence himself walked down to the State Superintendent’s office in the early afternoon, presumably to smooth over the slight. Superintendent Ritz was out visiting a school. She and the Governor had conversed at length a few days earlier at the Career Council meeting. Nothing was said about the new agency.

The other indicator of importance was the timing. Released on a Friday when news gets the least attention, the announcement succeeded in getting very little notice in the media world.

The move to marginalize Superintendent Ritz is based on a fundamental clash of visions between Gov. Pence and Superintendent Ritz. She wants to focus public money on public schools to make every school a great place to learn. He wants to give public money to private schools to give parents more choices. She wants to focus public money on non-sectarian public schools. He wants public money to go to sectarian private schools. During his first General Assembly last spring, public school advocates were extremely disheartened that the Governor pushed so hard to expand private school vouchers and then backed a recession-level budget for public school funding of only 1% in the second year of the budget. The previous low in recent decades when Indiana was not in recession was 2.4%.

This is hardball educational politics, and the one million public school students are losing while private schools are expanding.

Keep up your good work for public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith

ICPE is working to promote public education and oppose privatization of schools in the Statehouse. We need all previous members of ICPE to renew their memberships for the 2013-14 membership year which began July 1st. Please join us! To all who have recently renewed, we say thank you! We need additional support to carry on our advocacy for public education. We need additional members and additional donations. We need your help!

Go to for membership and renewal information.

Some readers have asked about my background in Indiana public schools. Thanks for asking! Here is a brief bio:

I am a lifelong Hoosier and began teaching in 1969. I served as a social studies teacher, curriculum developer, state research and evaluation consultant, state social studies consultant, district social studies supervisor, assistant principal, principal, educational association staff member, and adjunct university professor. I worked for Garrett-Keyser-Butler Schools, the Indiana University Social Studies Development Center, the Indiana Department of Education, the Indianapolis Public Schools, IUPUI, and the Indiana Urban Schools Association, from which I retired as Associate Director in 2009. I hold three degrees: B.A. in Ed., Ball State University, 1969; M.S. in Ed., Indiana University, 1972; and Ed.D., Indiana University, 1977, along with a Teacher’s Life License and a Superintendent’s License, 1998.

No comments: