In Tuesday’s (Apr. 4th) historic vote that received less media attention than a controversy over cold beer, the Senate voted to reverse its February 20th decisive defeat of the bill to end 166 years of electing our State Superintendent and allow appointment by the Governor.
Five Senators switched from “no” on February 20th to “yes” on April 4th:
With these five additional yes votes, the Senate tally moved from a 23-26 defeat on Feb. 20th to a 28-20 victory on April 4th.
After 166 years, the rights of voters to guide our democracy at the ballot box have been diminished by the General Assembly and upstaged by cold beer. There was a major article in yesterday’s Indianapolis Star about the cold beer problem, but not one word about the vote on electing the State Superintendent.
It is a sad sign for the power of voters and for our democracy in Indiana.
Changing from a State Superintendent of Public Instruction elected by the voting public to a secretary of education appointed by the Governor is one more step in the deconstruction of public education in Indiana.
The bill has more hurdles before final passage, with at minimum one more vote in the House. If you as a voter are offended by this bill and want to continue to speak up to your legislators on this issue, read “Next Steps” below to see the path ahead.
Three Reasons to Oppose HB 1005
There were three strong reasons for the Senators to oppose House Bill 1005:
1) Respect for and faith in democracy
Democracy is based on the belief that voters should be given the power to guide our government through free elections. If people believe that the wrong person has been elected, the voters can correct the problem at the next election. Taking away the power of voters and giving that power to the executive branch for appointments are steps leading away from democracy. The power of voters is diminished.
In the floor debate on Tuesday, the importance and respect for voters was emphasized by Senator Melton (D), Senator Leising (R), and Senator Randolph (D) as they spoke against the bill.
2) Respect for the rules of the Senate
Minority Leader Senator Lanane raised an objection that considering the bill would break Rule 81E. The rule says that says when a bill is defeated “that exact language or substantially similar language shall be considered decisively defeated and shall not be considered again during the session.”
Lt. Governor Crouch overruled the objection. Senator Lanane appealed the ruling of the chair. At that point, the chair stepped down for the debate on the appeal and Senator Long assumed the role of chair.
Senator Lanane in speaking on his appeal stated his case that under Senate rules HB 1005 should not have even been considered by the Rules Committee or by the Senate because the bill with the exact language of House Bill 1005 had been defeated with “26 nay votes on that matter.” He said “HB 1005 was the exact language.” He said that rules “should be viewed strictly. Rules mean what they say. It shall not be considered this session.” He said following the rule “lends to our credibility, to our sense of fairness. We don’t do do-overs.”
Before other Democratic Senators whose hands were up were called on to support Senator Lanane’s appeal, Senator Long recognized Senator Hershman who moved the previous question. Senator Long said that a vote on Senator Hershman’s motion would be a vote to end debate on the appeal. Senator Lanane started to ask a question but was cut off by Senator Long who said he didn’t recognize Senator Lanane. The roll call vote was 39-9 to sustain the chair. Thus, the appeal on the meaning of Senate Rule 81E was quickly over.
In the floor debate on the bill itself, Senator Taylor (D) and Senator Randolph (D) emphasized the issue of not following Senate rules.
My conclusion is that the Senate’s actions have made a mockery of Senate Rule 81E. Long after the debate over House Bill 1005 is resolved, Senators will always remember that this episode has gutted any meaning in the Senate rule about “decisively defeated” bills. The overwhelming desire of Senate leaders to take the selection of the State Superintendent out of the hands of voters this year, ending a feature of our democracy that has lasted 166 years, has left a legacy of damage to the respect for Senate rules that will linger for generations.
3) Allowing appointment of a K-12 State Superintendent with no K-12 experience
The word “preferably” in the qualifications section of HB 1005 means that the State Superintendent is not required to have experience in the “administration of public education” and is not required to have a degree in “education or educational administration.” It is optional. Senator Breaux made a strong attempt to make sure it was not optional, but her second reading amendments were voted down.
Read the qualifications for yourself:
“(2) has demonstrated personal and professional leadership success, preferably in the administration of public education;”
“(3) possesses an earned advanced degree , preferably in education or educational administration, awarded from a regionally or nationally accredited college or university; and”
Then in qualification (4), the words “Executive in the field of education” were clarified by bill sponsor Senator Buck on the floor of the Senate to mean that higher education leaders or other executives such as Mitch Daniels could serve as the K-12 State Superintendent.
It is offensive to those who have dedicated their lives and their careers to K-12 education to hear that they can be supervised at the state level by someone who has no K-12 experience. This shows no respect for the complex history and issues of K-12 education and the detailed knowledge required by anyone who would successfully lead Indiana K-12 education.
Thus, we are left with a serious flaw in the bill to appoint the State Superintendent. Not only does it take power away from citizens who vote, but it also leaves open the door to appoint a person with no K-12 experience and no degrees in education.
The Senate version of HB 1005 differs from the House version, so the sponsor of the House bill, Speaker Bosma, now will decide whether to accept the Senate version or whether to take the bill to a Conference Committee to change the bill to be more like the House version.
If he decides to accept the Senate version, then the House will vote on whether to concur with the Senate version. Voters who don’t want to give up the power to elect the State Superintendent can try to get their representative in the House to vote against the concurrence.
If he decides to take the bill to a Conference Committee to change any of the provisions of the bill, then the changes in the final Conference Committee report have to go back to both the House and the Senate for a final vote of approval. Unhappy voters can then share your feelings and opposition with members of both chambers before the final votes on the Conference Committee report. Stay tuned!
Let your legislators know that you have read the fine print and House Bill 1005 would allow a State Superintendent with no K-12 experience. This is startling and unacceptable.
This is flawed legislation.
Thank you for actively supporting public education in Indiana!
Vic Smith email@example.com