INDIANAPOLIS | School boards could hire superintendents who have no training, experience or background in education under legislation approved by a House committee Tuesday.
House Bill 1357, sponsored by state Rep. Todd Huston, R-Fishers, eliminates a requirement that superintendents hold a state-issued teacher or superintendent license to be hired.
"I believe a locally elected school board should be able to hire who they feel best meets their needs," Huston said. "This gives school boards as much flexibility as possible in hiring the person they want to lead their schools."
State Reps. Vernon Smith, D-Gary, and Shelli VanDenburgh, D-Crown Point, strongly objected to the proposal.
Smith, who teaches future principals and superintendents as an education professor at Indiana University Northwest, said eliminating training and experience requirements for superintendents dilutes the profession.
On Tuesday afternoon, Smith said he was astounded to watch the House vote 80-14 for House Bill 1051 requiring music therapists be credentialed at the same it's considering eliminating licensing requirements for hiring a school superintendent.
VanDenburgh said the state needs to set minimum superintendent standards to ensure they can at least relate to children and adequately do the job. She also noted school boards can currently hire unlicensed superintendents on an interim basis.
"It can already be done, and we shouldn't be lowering standards for our kids," she said.
Others speaking in opposition, including representatives of the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents and the Indiana State Teachers Association, said if the measure becomes law Hoosiers could see elected school board members rewarding their political supporters with the superintendent's post.
The proposal, which now goes to the full House, was approved on a party-line vote, with the seven committee Republicans voting yes and four Democrats voting no.
Huston, the sponsor, is a first-term lawmaker and former chief of staff for Tony Bennett, the Republican former state superintendent of public instruction.