-- Indiana legislators sent Gov. Eric Holcomb a measure Tuesday that would
eventually give the governor authority to appoint the state schools
superintendent, a post that has been elected by voters for more than 150
House Speaker Brian
Bosma, an Indianapolis Republican who sponsored the bill, said keeping the
head of the Department of Education off the ballot will absolve the position
from partisan politics. Holcomb backs the measure and is expected to sign
“Kudos to lawmakers
for fixing a decades-old problem (and) putting students (first),” Holcomb
This session’s push
to make the position an appointed one follows four years of conflict between
Democratic former Indiana schools chief Glenda Ritz and the state’s
Republican leaders, including lawmakers and then-Gov. Mike Pence. There were
frequent clashes over Republican-backed policies, such as using public funds
to send students to private school through the state’s voucher system.
Ritz’s own tenure
as schools’ chief was brought about by backlash to education changes under
then-Superintendent Tony Bennett, a Republican.
While the change
from an elected to an appointed superintendent was part of Holcomb’s agenda
for the session, its success was far from certain in February when the
Senate voted down their version of the proposal. That vote, per a Senate
rule, meant the chamber was unable to consider another bill with
substantially similar language again in the session.
GOP Senate leader
David Long ultimately ruled, amid protests from Democratic lawmakers, that
changes adopted in his rules committee rendered the measure different enough
to allow the Senate to take it up again. Those changes push back the date
the law would go into effect from 2021 to 2025 and add residency and
qualification requirements for the appointed superintendent.
The House approved
the modifications on a 66-31 vote Tuesday, despite Bosma’s desire to keep
the language “as flexible as possible” for future executives.
supermajorities in both chambers rebuffed calls from Democrats to send the
issue to a ballot referendum to allow voters to decide.
from voters to the governor, critics say, means education would become one
of many topics discussed in a gubernatorial election, instead of a separate
discussion surrounding voters’ selection of an independent schools chief.
Bosma resists that
characterization, arguing that the move will ensure the schools chief and
governor work together with a unified vision.
parents and educators deserve consistency and better coordination in the
administration of education policy,” he wrote in a statement, “and this
action marks a giant step forward.”
Find House Bill
1005 online at