INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
Indiana’s schools chief would be selected by the governor instead of chosen
by voters under a measure backed Tuesday by state House panel.
House Speaker Brian
Bosma argues that making the position a gubernatorial appointment would
ensure the schools chief and governor work together with a unified vision.
The state’s largest teacher’s union and other advocacy groups oppose taking
the decision away from voters.
comes after four years of conflict between the state’s Democratic former
schools chief, Glenda Ritz, Republican Gov. Mike Pence and Republican
leaders in the Legislature. They clashed over the state’s grading system for
schools, the use of private school vouchers and the state takeover of poorly
performing schools, among other things.
that his measure has no partisan basis and would serve to establish a clear
chain of command with the governor as the state’s point person on education.
Opponents, though, see the move as a way to strip voters of their power to
select an independent schools chief who reflects their education priorities.
represent teachers or advocate for public education say state voters know
what they want when it comes to public education and ought to retain their
power to choose a leader of the Department of Education.
“The customers are
the voters,” said Carol Craig, a representative from the Indiana Coalition
for Public Education. “The ones who are on the front lines, the ones who are
in and out of our public schools on a regular basis, the ones whose children
win or lose based upon the quality of expectations, implementation,
guidelines and support at the top level.”
between the schools chief and other education officials isn’t necessarily a
bad thing, said Indiana State Teachers Association lobbyist John O’Neal.
Healthy debate in the public policy arena can develop naturally as leaders
iron out specific policies to help students, he said.
question allowing non-Indiana residents to serve as schools chief and raise
concern over appointed individuals’ potential allegiance to the governor
instead of community members who would be directly affected.
Indiana is one of
13 states where voters elect the schools chief. The other 37 allow either
the governor or the board of education to select someone to fill the
The House Education
committee voted 10-3 to send the proposal to the full House Tuesday. A
companion bill in the Senate was endorsed by a legislative panel earlier
this month and awaits a full floor vote as well.
Eric Holcomb has said he is “fully behind” the proposal, adding that
economic and education matters are the most important duties for a governor.
“To have a
secretary of education and a secretary of commerce, in my mind, work with
the governor and the governor’s office are of paramount importance to the
future of this state,” he said.