GUEST COMMENTARY: End petty bickering, focus on early learning

2013-12-27T00:00:00Z GUEST COMMENTARY: End petty bickering, focus on early learningBy Earline Rogers nwitimes.com
December 27, 2013 12:00 am  • 

In the 38 years I spent at the front of a classroom, I’ve undoubtedly seen this type of behavior before. Not getting what they want, a student chooses to sulk and do everything in their power to disrupt what’s going on around them. It’s expected from grade-schoolers. It’s something else altogether to witness this childish behavior from the “adults” in Indianapolis when it is at the detriment of Hoosier students.

In 2012, Hoosiers rallied behind then candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz, electing her over her opponent, incumbent Tony Bennett, with more votes statewide than the governor himself received.

Since then, Ritz has faced attempts from this administration to dilute her constitutionally mandated office and obstruct her vision for Indiana education policy.

Hoosiers made it clear they were fed up with the previous administration’s assault on local control and attitude that Indianapolis knows best when it comes to overseeing the direction of our schools. Ritz has shifted the focus back to students, parents and teachers by strengthening the connection and upping the dialogue between her Department of Education and our schools.

Instead of focusing on kids, there has been a return to the heavy-handed policies Hoosiers soundly rejected. At a time when the state’s agencies have been asked to tighten their belts by $75 million, the administration created a new agency tasked with deposing Ritz’s Department of Education.

Of the Center for Education and Career Innovation’s 16 staffers, six make more than $100,000, and the pseudo-agency has been heavily criticized for performing functions already handled by the DOE.

The governor-appointed State Board of Education has displayed a willingness to flat out ignore the will of Hoosiers voters and Indiana statute in their efforts to undercut Ritz. That statute plainly spells out the superintendent chairs the state board and her agency alone is tasked with calculating schools’ A-F grades.

That didn’t stop board members from covertly attempting to have those grades calculated by an outside entity and from regularly challenging Ritz’s authority as board chair.

What’s most upsetting is the willingness to elevate pettiness over policy. Ritz has been an ardent supporter of early childhood education and ensuring Hoosier children arrive in classrooms ready to learn. Instead of focusing on education policy, the administration is caught up in attempting to erase election results from more than a year ago.

It’s my hope the governor joins Ritz, the Senate Democrats and other education stakeholders this upcoming legislative session in embracing the benefits of quality early childhood education.

State Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, represents Indiana Senate District 3. The opinions are the writer's.

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