INDIANAPOLIS | Despite warnings by region lawmakers that nothing good will come of it, the Indiana House voted 58-40 on Tuesday to allow school boards to hire any person they want as superintendent regardless of that person's training or experience in education.
House Bill 1357, which now goes to the Senate, eliminates a requirement that school boards only hire superintendents licensed by the state.
The sponsor of the legislation, state Rep. Todd Huston, R-Fishers, said school boards can and likely will still hire licensed superintendents, but boards should be free to hire the person they feel can best direct their school corporation.
"This is an opportunity for them to throw the net as wide as possible to find their leader," Huston said. "Why not trust the locals to make that decision?"
House Democratic Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, told Huston he found it ironic that the former chief of staff to Tony Bennett, the now departed Republican state superintendent of public instruction, would be sponsoring legislation promoting local control of schools.
"We've done nothing but strip school corporations of local control," Pelath said.
At the same time, elected school boards could use a qualification-less superintendent's post as an opportunity to reward a big campaign contributor with a lucrative job, noted state Rep. Shelli VanDenburgh, D-Crown Point.
"These people need to be credentialed," she said. "We're all about setting standards at every level but here we're saying no standards."
State Rep. Vernon Smith, D-Gary, who trains future principals and superintendents as an education professor at Indiana University Northwest, said no longer requiring licensing is a message that the state doesn't value the work that superintendents do.
He said that's the wrong message especially since state education rules already allow school boards to hire unlicensed superintendents on a renewable interim basis.