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Education board measures would curb Ritz's powers

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Schools Superintendent Glenda Ritz said Wednesday she would have her lawyers review a pair of measures from the State Board of Education that would curb some of her powers as board chair.

The board voted 7-3 on one measure establishing a committee to review Ritz's ability to set the board's agenda. And board members voted 9-1 on a separate measure mandating that the Department of Education deliver regular updates to the board on the status of the state's No Child Left Behind waiver.

Board members who supported the measure argued that she was reading too much into their requests and that it was not about a power play against her.

"I don't think I see this as anything other than collaborating and trying to put our best foot forward," said Gordon Hendry, a Democratic member of the board.

It will now be up to Ritz to decide whether to appoint the special committee called for by the board. She said Wednesday that she wanted a legal review first to determine if the board acted within its powers.

The votes capped more than two hours of emotional and, at times, combative debate between Ritz and the other board members, all appointees by the state's past two Republican governors. Ritz accused Pence's education agency, the Center for Education and Career Innovation, of trying to interfere with her efforts to secure the federal waiver.

"I feel like it's an attempt to actually bring to bear and question my integrity, my honesty, my department's capacity to do the work of the waiver. Perhaps he (Pence) thinks his agency is the agency that should be doing that," Ritz said.

A CECI spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Ritz's statements Wednesday evening. But Ritz pointed out that CECI staff submitted a 28-page critique of the state's waiver that she argued "jeopardizes" the state's chances at keeping the waiver.

The U.S. Department of Education alerted the state at the end of April that it was in danger of losing its federal waiver because of problems tracking low-performing schools. At stake is control over a slice of the more than $200 million Indiana receives in federal "Title I" funds each year.

The news of the state's waiver being placed in jeopardy also re-opened old political battles between Ritz and Pence's staff and board appointees that had been dormant since last December.

The infighting has drawn criticism from U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, a supporter of the education overhaul pushed by former Superintendent Tony Bennett and former Gov. Mitch Daniels. Duncan said in January that the state was facing "deep dysfunction".

At the height of the battling last fall, Ritz ended a meeting abruptly after ruling one member's motion out of order. She later sued the other members of the board, claiming they violated Indiana's public access laws when they sought to move calculation of the state's "A-F" school grades to legislative analysts.

Pence called in an arbitrator from the National Association of State Boards of Education to negotiate a truce between Ritz, the board and his staff. But during a December meeting with the arbitrator, Ritz released an email discussion between Pence's staff discussing ways to strip her of power.

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  1. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

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