INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Democratic
Schools Superintendent Glenda Ritz released an internal document Wednesday
that she says is evidence a new agency created by Republican Gov. Mike
Pence is trying to undermine her.
The document, a nine-point policy proposal from the Pence-created Center
for Education and Career Innovation, includes a recommendation on how to
strip Ritz's powers as chair of the State Board of Education while
avoiding "substantial political fallout." Ritz's control of the State
Board of Education has become a flashpoint in the ongoing education
"Revising the statute doesn't accomplish anything 'legally,' as the
Chair's powers are actually not defined in a statute (but in the shared
governance procedures) and may have substantial political fallout. An
alternative solution may be to revise the shared governance procedure to
make it clear that the Chair cannot reject agenda items or motions made by
board members," according to the CECI memo, titled "2013 Education Policy
The document, which was included in an Oct. 3 email sent between two Pence
education staffers, seems to confirm Ritz's fears that she was being
targeted by the governor's new education agency. But a spokeswoman for
Pence said the governor immediately dismissed the idea when it was first
brought up in October and reiterated that it would not be a problem in a
private meeting with Ritz last week.
"The governor squashed this. They had a meeting last week, and this was
discussed and he said he had no intention to include this item in the
legislative agenda," said Kara Brooks, a Pence spokeswoman. Brooks also
accused Ritz of playing political games by releasing the document now,
while board members are working through a string of problems.
Ritz spokesman David Galvin said the superintendent is not worried that
Pence will move to strip her power but expects a board member will offer a
"surprise motion" gutting her hold on the board.
"That's why she refuses to take motions from the floor: because of the
knowledge she has," he said, referring to the document. Galvin noted
previous measures shifting power from Ritz to Pence already have been
offered without public notice, including one from board member Dan Elsener
that moved operation of the board from Ritz to Pence's new education
That shift, moving the staffing of the board to Pence while leaving the
nominal control of the board with Ritz, has led to increasingly tense
state board meetings. Ritz's office and the Pence staffers will
occasionally draw up separate, competing agendas for board meetings. And
lawyers for the opposing sides occasionally elbow each other for room at
the lectern to deliver conflicting legal advice.
Tensions have been running high between Ritz and Pence, who oppose one
another on a majority of education issues while overseeing the competing
education agencies. Ritz sued the other members of the board in October,
alleging they violated the state's open meetings law by going behind her
back regarding calculation of the state's school grades.
Ritz stormed out of a board meeting last month after a board member
floated a measure he said was aimed at handling college and career
preparation standards but that she said would shift more power from her
office to Pence's new agency.
A national mediator — Kris Amundson, executive director of the National
Association of State Boards of Education — was called in for Wednesday's
meeting of the Board of Education. But Ritz and other members continued to
snipe at each other and the release of the Pence policy document appeared
to put a damper on any progress.
At the core is an ongoing struggle between supporters of traditional
public education, represented by Ritz, a former teachers union president,
and supporters of the many education changes pushed by former Schools
Superintendent Tony Bennett and former Gov. Mitch Daniels. Board members,
appointed by either Pence or Daniels, have complained extensively that
Ritz rules the board agenda with an iron fist and refuses to allow their
proposals to come up for consideration.
Tony Walker, a Democrat and Daniels appointee, said Ritz has used an
expansive definition of her role as chairwoman to "hijack" board meetings.
Walker said he believes a change in control should happen but opposes the
Pence agency's idea it be left to the governor. Instead, the board members
should elect their own chairman, he said.
He also said the timing of released document would do little to improve
relations with the other board members.
"We leave the makeup meeting for her to go drop the email bomb. We hadn't
even gotten out of the room before share started the fight again," he