INDIANAPOLIS—Senate Democrats offered a number of legislative tweaks to a Republican-backed bill that would rewrite how the Indiana State Board of Education (SBOE) is staffed and remove Superintendent of Public instruction Glenda Ritz as chairperson of that board. Democrats’ amendments aimed to restore the duties and responsibilities of the Superintendent of Public Instruction and remove the politics associated with the current board appointment process.
As proposed by Senate Republicans, Senate Bill 1 would remove Superintendent Ritz as the chair of the Indiana State Board of Education, a role held by the superintendent for the past 113 years.
“What we tried to do today was uphold the will of the 1.3 million Hoosiers who went to the ballot box and voted for Superintendent Ritz to set the educational policies of our state,” said Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane (D-Anderson). “Those that continue to manufacture a political fight over her job are doing nothing more than engaging in revenge politics.”
Proposed changes by Democrats included upholding the Superintendent’s position as the chairperson of the SBOE, giving appointees independence from the politicians that appoint them, and putting an end to the repeated attempts to create additional bureaucracy and duplicate the Department of Education’s responsibilities. Ultimately, Democrats advocated to study the controversial measure during the interim before any action is taken by the Indiana General Assembly.
State Senator John Broden (D-South Bend), authored a number of the amendments and remarked that any time people debate passionately, tension occurs.
“Democracy is messy, there will be debate,” said Sen. Broden. “That discourse makes government stronger. Republicans are trying to silence that debate.”
All but one amendment was rejected by Senate Republicans 10-40, toeing a strict party-line. An amendment clarifying political party affiliation of board appointees passed on a voice vote.
SB 1 is expected to be heard in its amended form by the Senate before being sent to the House of Representatives for further consideration.