INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
Democratic Schools Superintendent Glenda Ritz said Wednesday she would have
her lawyers review a pair of measures from the State Board of Education that
would curb some of her powers as board chair.
The board voted 7-3
on one measure establishing a committee to review Ritz’s ability to set the
board’s agenda. And board members voted 9-1 on a separate measure mandating
that the Department of Education deliver regular updates to the board on the
status of the state’s No Child Left Behind waiver.
Board members who
supported the measure argued that she was reading too much into their
requests and that it was not about a power play against her.
“I don’t think I
see this as anything other than collaborating and trying to put our best
foot forward,” said Gordon Hendry, a Democratic member of the board.
It will now be up
to Ritz to decide whether to appoint the special committee called for by the
board. She said Wednesday that she wanted a legal review first to determine
if the board acted within its powers.
The votes capped
more than two hours of emotional and, at times, combative debate between
Ritz and the other board members, all appointees by the state’s past two
Republican governors. Ritz accused Pence’s education agency, the Center for
Education and Career Innovation, of trying to interfere with her efforts to
secure the federal waiver.
“I feel like it’s
an attempt to actually bring to bear and question my integrity, my honesty,
my department’s capacity to do the work of the waiver. Perhaps he (Pence)
thinks his agency is the agency that should be doing that,” Ritz said.
A CECI spokeswoman
did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Ritz’s statements
Wednesday evening. But Ritz pointed out that CECI staff submitted a 28-page
critique of the state’s waiver that she argued “jeopardizes” the state’s
chances at keeping the waiver.
The U.S. Department
of Education alerted the state at the end of April that it was in danger of
losing its federal waiver because of problems tracking low-performing
schools. At stake is control over a slice of the more than $200 million
Indiana receives in federal “Title I” funds each year.
The news of the
state’s waiver being placed in jeopardy also re-opened old political battles
between Ritz and Pence’s staff and board appointees that had been dormant
since last December.
The infighting has
drawn criticism from U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, a supporter of
the education overhaul pushed by former Superintendent Tony Bennett and
former Gov. Mitch Daniels. Duncan said in January that the state was facing
At the height of
the battling last fall, Ritz ended a meeting abruptly after ruling one
member’s motion out of order. She later sued the other members of the board,
claiming they violated Indiana’s public access laws when they sought to move
calculation of the state’s “A-F” school grades to legislative analysts.
Pence called in an
arbitrator from the National Association of State Boards of Education to
negotiate a truce between Ritz, the board and his staff. But during a
December meeting with the arbitrator, Ritz released an email discussion
between Pence’s staff discussing ways to strip her of power.