RICH JAMES: Big Brother pulling strings behind education

2013-08-28T00:00:00Z 2013-08-28T00:27:07Z RICH JAMES: Big Brother pulling strings behind educationBy Rich James nwitimes.com
August 28, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Ah, back to school. And Big Brother is watching on the local and state levels.

It’s all very interesting, but scary.

Did you know parents in some Northwest Indiana school districts can hop on the computer and monitor just about everything their kids are doing, or not doing, in school?

Interesting, but I guess it makes me glad I’m no longer a student

And, what happened in Indianapolis last week makes me glad I’m not state Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz.

Big Brother Mike Pence, who also serves as governor, made a power grab that essentially gave him control of the state’s education system, leaving Ritz with little to do but clean blackboards.

And Ritz learned about it after the fact.

Guess I’m not surprised. It was just a matter of time.

Indiana Republicans have been seething ever since Ritz, a Democrat, defeated Republican Superintendent Tony Bennett last November.

Tony was the hatchet man for Republicans who fought to take control of the state’s education system by stripping teachers of power and allowing state dollars to slip away from the public schools.

The only question after Bennett’s defeat was how the Republicans were going to strike back. Were they going to ignore Ritz or render her powerless?

We found out last week.

Pence announced the formation of the Center for Education and Career Innovation, which will work with a plethora of state agencies to improve education. Ritz’s office isn’t one of them.

Pence said, “By creating a focal point for bringing together and deploying critical resources, the agency will deliver real change in Indiana, benefiting Hoosier families, employers and taxpayers, and ultimately, impacting every Hoosier across the state.”

I’m not sure, but I think he just created the Garden of Eden.

Pence added, “CECI will hold students, adult workers, educators, schools, higher education institutions and workforce programs accountable for their progress.” Isn’t Ritz responsible for many of those things?

If you don’t think this was all contrived, consider that House Speaker Brian Bosma and Indiana Chamber of Commerce chief Kevin Brinegar issued statements of support before Pence had finished speaking. Ritz, meanwhile, was left to pound the chalk out of erasers.

Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane said adding another level of bureaucracy will do nothing to help education.

“When it comes to our children’s education, politics must be set aside and all stakeholders must work together. That seems to have been lacking in this instance,” Lanane said.

Maybe Lanane and I are wrong. If so, Big Brother ought to come clean and sponsor legislation to make the superintendent an appointed position and step out from behind a bureaucratic curtain called the CECI.

Rich James has been writing about state and local government and politics for more than 30 years. Email him at rjames@219.com. The opinions are the writer’s.

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