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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. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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