INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - A member of the State Board of Education asked a Marion
County judge Wednesday to throw out a lawsuit filed this week by Schools
Superintendent Glenda Ritz in Indiana’s ongoing education battle.
Ritz sued the 10 governor-appointed board members Tuesday, claiming they
violated Indiana’s open meetings law when they circumvented her last week in
seeking school performance results for the 2012-13 school year. The board
members, a mix of Republicans and Democrats, wrote a letter last week to the
leaders of the General Assembly asking the bill-drafting Legislative
Services Agency to run the school grades.
Each school in Indiana is graded on an A-F scale based on their students’
test performance and graduation rates.
The members said Ritz is dragging her feet because she doesn’t want to
release the grades, but Ritz’s office has said it does not have the data
needed to calculate the grades. Delays have been caused in part by the ISTEP
standardized testing problems earlier in the spring and by a scandal over
the school evaluation system.
Tony Walker, a Democratic member of the board, filed the request for
dismissal Wednesday. In it, he argues that Ritz does not establish a basis
for suing him.
Tensions between Ritz, a Democrat who unseated Bennett in last year’s
election, and the board members, including many close Bennett allies, have
been growing throughout the year. The lawsuit marked the sharpest escalation
yet in the ongoing power struggle.
Democratic legislative leaders said Tuesday that the board’s latest move is
an effort to “sidestep the law” by taking away the grades from the
Department of Education. But Republican staffers, meanwhile, began
circulating a video clip of Ritz at a state board meeting saying she would
welcome the Legislative Services Agency’s help with the grades. “Actually,
the department is more than excited about doing a check. That just makes
sure what we are going to release is correct,” Ritz said in the video,
during a presentation from the pair of investigators who reviewed Bennett’s
changes to the grading formula.
The A-F grades are used to calculate teacher pay and school funding, as well
as to determine if schools face a state takeover. The current grading
formula is being re-crafted by a bipartisan panel of educators and political
House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, and Senate President Pro Tem
David Long, R-Fort Wayne, appeared to request that LSA deliver the grades
directly to the state board in their letter approving the move: “We would
appreciate LSA providing the A-F calculations to the Board as soon as
possible, so that the Board can prepare to issue grades expeditiously.”
But some board members have said their intention was only to have LSA run
the grades, while leaving the final issuing with the Department of