Removing Ritz as Chairperson "Makes Kids the Winners"-- McMillin Schools Us on Ethics and the Workings of State Government
Well, the first step has occurred. Thursday the House Education Committee voted to take the role and responsibilities of chairperson of the state board of education away from Glenda Ritz, our state superintendent of public instruction. This in the name of taking politics out of education (galling). The bill to take away these responsibilities from Glenda Ritz was authored by republican Rep. Jud McMillin (district 68) Indiana House majority leader.
Referring to the relationship between Ritz and the governor-appointed state board members as "dysfunctional", McMillin went on to say that this measure would "remove some of the politics out of the equation" and make "kids the winners in the end." At the end of the testimony both for and against the bill, McMillin came back to address criticism and plug his HB1609 one last time.
To those of us in Indiana who have said that we voted for Glenda Ritz to be in this position of chairperson and superintendent, he seemed to scoff that we actually knew what we were voting for:
"[Critics claim] There was an extremely educated electorate that casted [sic] a vote knowing exactly what they were getting with superintendent Ritz as not only being the head of the department of education, but also being the chair the state board of education. And that may be very well true. I hope it is. I encourage an educated electorate, I hope folks did do that."
Then he went on to imply that the electorate was not really that educated and didn't realize what Ritz's role would be or should be. He gave this (rather confusing) description of what everyone's roles actually are:
"But at the same time, then they [critics of his bill] acknowledge that for some reason this educated electorate did not realize these same statutes require that she be the chair of the, the head of the department. of education --and the department of education merely serves to implement the policies that are handed down by the general assembly. And it’s the general assembly’s job to enact the policies and those same voters elected members of the general assembly who've enacted policies now that the state board of education is standing in the way of. Because the state board of education’s job is to merely make rules for the most part to make sure that the policies enacted by the general assembly are… uh… the.. I’m sorry, [starts over] The state board of education makes rules to ensure that the department of education is able to enact the policies enacted by the general assembly."
He addressed the idea that Glenda Ritz actually does have public support to be in her position and carry out her duties because of the number of votes she received with some degree of facetiousness:
So if you want to stand up here and you want to say, 'Well, she was overwhelmingly elected..' Well, I agree. She was. And I’m happy for her. She was overwhelmingly elected to make sure that she implemented the policies enacted by the general assembly.And the general assembly was overwhelmingly elected to make sure that they enacted the policies that the people of Indiana wanted."
He goes on to say that the state board of education is getting in the way of the enactment of those policies and that that is why the board should elect their own chairperson...to "do the best we can to remove the politics that keeps those two entities from coming together and getting their jobs done."
And to do it, of course, for the kids.
It is more than a little ironic that Rep. McMillin has had troubles of his own regarding government dysfunction. (As kids would say, it takes one to know one.) It seems that he might understand a little about the workings of politics and power himself. In 2013, he stepped down from a committee which decides how to spend $10 million in public riverboat casino funds each year. As a committee, they are supposed to use that money to stimulate the economy. McMillin apparently felt it would be stimulating to give $600,000 of that to his own company. He had removed himself from that company before he pushed for it, but his mother and family friends were carrying on in his shoes---a fact that he purportedly left out. He also voted for a $500,000 grant for a company that his own law firm was representing. He claims to have not been aware of that connection. But it was pointed out that he and his father are the only attorneys in that firm.
Add to this, the news reported a couple of weeks ago that our state house education committee chairman, Rep. Bob Behning, was going to start his own education lobbying firm. Nothing says "for the kids" like profiting off of them.
Having Glenda Ritz as chairperson on the board is a way for there to be some checks and balances and a voice for the minority (in this case, NON corporate-education reformers) in the decision-making, policy-making process. To go around that, to twist the structure in order to suit your aims, THAT is dysfunction.
#Indianaethics. #thisiswhyourmottoisHonesttoGoodnessIndiana #Orwell's1984
Please write to your legislators and the whole house while you are at it, and tell them what you think about our politics in education.
“In all fairness, Superintendent Ritz was a librarian, okay? But she’s…uh… She’s a bright person." ---Senator David Long Speaks Out on Dysfunction
The 2015 Legislative Session of Indiana is off to a roaring start. The corporate reformer legislators are looking to continue with their agenda and apparently Superintendent Glenda Ritz is standing in their way. It is vitally important that we all write to the House Education Committee members and Senate Education Committee members as well as our own legislators and let them know where we stand.
But for fuel to light your fire, let me show you what senator David Long, president pro tempore of the Indiana state senate, had to say about our superintendent of public instruction Glenda Ritz and the state board of education while on the Fort Wayne show "Prime Time 39". From the senator:
"Right now we have had a dysfunctional relationship between the superintendent of public schools and the board. The board is made up of 11 people including the superintendent and she is also the chairperson of that board. It is not working.
Then Long took a question from a caller:
A woman caller, "Laura," asks:
“Senator Long, have you ever watched any of the board of education meetings?”
He responds “Yes, I have.”
Caller: “Okay. I have, too, and when you talk about dysfunction, I think in particular, you have a couple of men on there who are very sexist and they don’t want to listen to what a woman has to say. Superintendent Ritz is a very, um, she’s won a lot of awards as a teacher. She knows a lot about teaching. She knows more about teaching than every board member put together. And I think that there’s been such a loss of respect. Especially with a couple of men—one who hasn’t taught in a K-12 school in over 18 years and another one who is an attorney…”
Ironically, Senator Long interrupts this woman: “Let me try to answer your question there and I appreciate your comment.”
He goes on:
Let us be clear. While Senator Long and other talking heads in the statehouse (and governor's mansion, for that matter) act like it is the structure of the department of education that is the problem, we know that Suellen Reed served well as a republican superintendent under democrat Governor O'Bannon and Gov. Kernan. There were no complaints back then. But when Governor Daniels and Superintendent Tony Bennett came on the scene with an ALEC-backed, corporate-education reform vengeance, Hoosiers objected loudly and embraced democrat Glenda Ritz for their superintendent of public instruction.
Let us also point out that there are 7 states who elect their state board of education members, who then elect the superintendent of instruction. There are 8 states besides Indiana who elect their superintendent of public instruction. Add to this 9 other states in which there are some state board members elected, but not all, and you have a wide variety of democratically elected positions. In fact, there are roughly only 14 states that have their board members appointed by the governor alone. Indiana is not really an oddball at all, but one of many states that allow the electorate to have some sway over education positions other than the governor.
No, Senator Long, the dysfunction is not in the structure of our state board and department of education. The dysfunction lies in a governor and his super majority who are trying to continue their corporate reform (privatization) education agenda at any cost. They will circumvent democracy and justify it by calling Ritz dysfunctional or a "catalyst."
Dysfunction is ignoring the hundreds of thousands of voters who wanted Ritz to lead, who embraced her platform, and who showed more support for her than for the governor himself. Dysfunction is creating your own news agency to tell the story the way you want it to be painted. And, unfortunately, dysfunction is a passive citizenry that will not vote these people out.
Please speak up NOW.