Pence seeks outside help to stop State Board of Education fights

2013-11-15T17:00:00Z 2013-11-15T20:44:33Z Pence seeks outside help to stop State Board of Education fightsBy Dan Carden dan.carden@nwi.com, (317) 637-9078 nwitimes.com
November 15, 2013 5:00 pm  • 

INDIANAPOLIS | Gov. Mike Pence has turned to the National Association of State Boards of Education for guidance in resolving ongoing disputes between Indiana's State Board of Education and Glenda Ritz, the state superintendent of public instruction.

In a letter sent Friday to Ritz and the 10 other board members, Pence requests they meet with a facilitator from the national group to clarify the state board's "roles and responsibilities, and reach a common understanding regarding the governance procedures."

Simmering political and personal tensions between the elected Democratic superintendent and the Republican-appointed board boiled over Wednesday when board members insisted that staff from Pence's Center for Education and Career Innovation, a new state agency, co-direct a review of state educational standards alongside the state Department of Education over which Ritz presides.

Ritz, who believes CECI was created by Pence to usurp her authority as state schools chief, abruptly adjourned the meeting and requested the attorney general weigh in on how the governor is using CECI, which was established by executive order and has not been approved by the Legislature.

Daniel Altman, a Ritz spokesman, said Pence's resort to a national group is not needed because it's the governor's own CECI agency that's causing the friction between the board and the superintendent.

"The governor and Superintendent Ritz need to speak about this matter before involving any outside parties," Altman said. "For the governor to claim that this can be resolved without his direct involvement shows that he simply has not been listening."

On the other hand, Gary's Tony Walker, who represents Northwest Indiana on the state education board, believes Pence's request for help from the national group "is a great idea."

"Several other states, including Colorado and Louisiana, have had similar issues with their state boards of education," Walker said. "We should benefit from the expertise of those who have resolved these problems."

Walker was instrumental in getting Indiana to rejoin the national school board group once Ritz began chairing the state board in February. Former State Superintendent Tony Bennett, a Republican, quit the organization in 2009 to save $31,000 in annual dues payments.

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