EDITORIAL: Keep quality standards for school superintendents

2013-02-03T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: Keep quality standards for school superintendents nwitimes.com
February 03, 2013 12:00 am

A number of good proposals and policies have come out of Indianapolis in recent years to reform local government, and many of those measures have been tailor-made to the many government-borne problems in Northwest Indiana. However, legislation now pending in the Indiana House of Representatives would not fit that bill.

Rep. Todd Huston, R-Fishers, is sponsoring a misguided measure that would allow local school boards to hire superintendents who have no training, experience or background in education. The bill would take away requirements that superintendents hold a state-issued teacher or superintendent's license to be hired, effectively tossing a quality standard out the window.

Huston said he believes "a locally elected school board should be able to hire who they feel best meets their needs."

The problem with this logic is that local elected officials often lack the professional background to make that call. That is why the state has benchmarks and standards for quality -- for essential things like classroom instruction, student achievement and administrative qualifications.

Licensing is an important part of ensuring the best possible quality for the education that is so important to Hoosier children's futures. A previously held teacher or superintendent license doesn't automatically ensure a quality candidate to lead a school district. For the intangibles of ensuring a good fit, elected school boards are likely the best evaluators of such criteria. However, candidates should at least meet basic, state-held criteria before they walk through the door to the interview room.

A previously held license demonstrates the important knowledge of educational trenches that every superintendent should have. Being a good administrator is more than counting beans and balancing budgets, though those traits are important as well. A good school administrator has been up close and personal with the many challenges of educating children and will use that knowledge to shape policies affecting educational quality.

Consider for a moment another bill debated last week at the same time as the superintendents' legislation. The other bill would require Hoosier music therapists to be licensed by the state. We find it ironic some lawmakers would seek to ensure quality standards through licensing for music therapists but toss the standard for the important job of forming polices that impact our children's futures.

State Rep. Vernon Smith, D-Gary, spoke out against the superintendents' bill Tuesday. As an Indiana University Northwest professor who teaches future principals and superintendents, Smith said the legislation will dilute the profession.

We agree. Let this one die on the legislative floor.

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