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Sore losers target Ind. superintendent

"Sore losers" would appear to be the best way to describe Indiana Republicans angered by Glenda Ritz's election as superintendent of public instruction.

I wrote yesterday about House Bill 1251, which would remove the requirement that at least four members of the State Board of Education be actively employed in Indiana schools and hold a teaching license.

Another bill, HB 1309, looks like a clear effort to marginalize Ritz. Sponsored by House Education Committee Chairman Robert Behning, an Indianapolis florist, it requires the State Board to elect a vice chairman who:

1. Presides over meetings in the absence of the state superintendent of public instruction; and

2. May call meetings, set and amend agendas, arrange for witnesses, and carry out other administrative functions related to the meetings of the state board.

Ritz, who defeated her GOP predecessor by more than 140,000 votes, is chairman of the State Board of Education by virtue of her election. The ten members of the board are appointed by the governor. Handing the authority to call meetings, set and amend agendas, arrange for witnesses and carry out other administrative functions to one of his appointees is clearly an end-run around the Nov. 6 election results.

But that's not all. Behning's bill also adds the Commissioner for Higher Education as a third co-chairperson of the Education Roundtable, along with the governor and state superintendent. The commissioner, of course, is appointed by the governor, so the superintendent is automatically reduced to minority status among the three. The legislation also allows "a majority of the co-chairpersons" to carry out the administrative functions related to the meetings of the roundtable.

Former Gov. Mitch Daniels reshaped the Education Roundtable from the collaborative, well-rounded and effective panel that existed under Democratic Gov. Frank O'Bannon and Republican Superintendent Suellen Reed into a worthless rubber stamp for his education theories. This bill would appear to render it totally useless.

Indiana voters and public education supporters should be outraged over the shameless attempt to override the results of last November's election.

Karen Francisco, editorial page editor for The Journal Gazette, has been an Indiana journalist since 1981. She writes frequently about education for The Journal Gazette opinion pages and here, where she looks at the business, politics and science of learning as it relates to northeast Indiana, the state and the nation. She can be reached at 260-461-8206 or by e-mail at kfrancisco@jg.net.

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