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Associated Press
State Board of Education member Brad Oliver speaks with Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz during a break in Wednesday’s contentious Indiana State Board of Education meeting in Indianapolis.

Firm in the face of takeover

Superintendent battling real threat to students

I very rarely write a response to an opinion article. However, I feel compelled to clear the air after a column appeared in another Indiana newspaper under the headline, “While Ritz, board spar, children get hurt.”

I would never do anything to hurt Indiana’s children. I want the public to know that I will work to ensure that our students will not be hurt by what appears to be an attempted takeover of the Department of Education by Gov. Mike Pence.

I will provide a comprehensive support system for schools to ensure that students receive an education of equity and high quality. To do this, I will do everything in my power to strengthen the Department of Education, not have it dismantled.

With that being said, let’s talk about education politics since my election one year ago.

Political struggles began immediately after my election. In the 2013 legislative session, large amounts of state money were taken from the Department of Education through the budget process. Pence used this money to help form, by executive order, a new agency called the Center for Education and Career Innovation. When he formed this agency, the governor pledged that it would work alongside me. Instead, the CECI is spending its time:

•Hiring former employees of the Department of Education who worked under former Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett to continually undermine actions taken by the Department of Education.

•Documenting its priority as removing me as the chair of the State Board of Education through both board operating procedures and legislative action.

•Beginning the transfer of authority from the Department of Education to the CECI. A bill is being drafted for the 2014 legislative session that allows CECI and the State Board of Education to take over data collected by the Department of Education, potentially in violation of federal privacy regulations for more than a million Hoosier students.

•Writing the letter of action for the State Board of Education outside of a public meeting without my knowledge to take the calculation of A-F grades away from the Department of Education, in violation of state law.

The lawsuit I filed was about stopping what is not right: illegal actions by the State Board of Education and CECI.

I must not tolerate a power grab of the Department of Education’s authority and ability to conduct business for Indiana students.

Last November, Hoosier voters said very clearly that they want me to fight for public education in our state and to serve as a check and balance to the governor.

It is now clear that Pence is not seeking a power grab, but rather a complete takeover of education. That is the real threat to our children.

Glenda Ritz is Indiana superintendent of public instruction. She wrote this for Indiana newspapers.

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