INDIANAPOLIS | After working together Wednesday to adopt a new framework for grading schools, the State Board of Education dissolved into chaos when its chairwoman, Glenda Ritz, abruptly adjourned the meeting and board members attempted to carry on without her.
At issue was a proposal by board member Brad Oliver, of Muncie, to have the Center for Education and Career Innovation, a governor-created state agency separate from Ritz's Department of Education, coordinate the board's review of Common Core educational standards.
Ritz, the Democratic state superintendent of public instruction, contends her department is required by law to lead the review, which then goes to the state's Education Roundtable before being presented to the board.
She said the Republican-appointed board is trying to use CECI to usurp her authority. When board members insisted on inserting CECI in the standards review process, an action Ritz believes is illegal, she adjourned the meeting.
"I have said previously that I will not tolerate violations of the law, be they Open Door violations or improper motions," Ritz said. "The public demands nothing less."
Once Ritz left the room, Indianapolis board member Daniel Elsener attempted to run the meeting without her. CECI head Claire Fiddian-Green told Elsener the board could act without Ritz, but Oliver eventually withdrew his motion and Elsener ended the meeting.
Ritz and the board have clashed repeatedly since she defeated Republican Tony Bennett last year to become state schools chief. Elsener, Fiddian-Green and several other board members donated money to Bennett's campaign.
Republican Gov. Mike Pence said he regrets "the misunderstandings and the friction" between the board he appointed and Ritz but refused to respond directly to Ritz's charge that he's trying to take control of education from her department.
"I'm just determined, as a part of the shared responsibility for education here at the Statehouse, to do our part to continue to build on the progress Indiana has made for the sake of our kids and for the sake of their future," Pence said.