Political expert: SB1 is personal between legislators and Ritz


FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Some voters are upset over a bill before the General Assembly. If passed, Senate bill one would remove some of the powers of State Superintendent Glenda Ritz.

Political analyst and expert Andy Downs with the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics says this bill is personal. It has to do with republican legislators upset with how she has portrayed herself. If passed, it would not require her to be the chair of the board, but allow members to elect a chairperson.

Volatile meetings like one in November of 2013 when Ritz abruptly adjourned a meeting is what political expert Andy Downs believes fuels the fire of senate bill one.

“It is about Glenda Ritz no matter what legislators may want to say,” political expert Andy Downs said.

Downs says every superintendent for the past many decades have always been the chair of the state board of education: a powerful group that makes decisions that directly impact public education. But now, the Senate and the House are drafting a bill that’s now in conference committee that would change that starting July one if passed.

“There is a clear theme coming out of both chambers that they want to take some power some control over the school board away from superintendent Glenda Ritz. The way they wanted to do that was by making her no longer the automatic chair.”

For those who think the chair of the board isn’t powerful, Downs says think again.

“Well, what you have to remember from a parliamentary standpoint is that when you chair the committee you actually have a fair amount of power. You decide who gets to speak, who doesn’t get to speak, you can move things through faster or slower. It’s the same sort of advantage that you see someone who is in charge of a committee say in the house or the senate and for that matter even the speaker of the house or the president pro tem.”

Now, the bill is still in conference committee until both the house and senate can come to a unanimous decision. It’s not clear yet how this would impact students. But, Downs did say that even not as chair, the state superintendent would have more of an advantage with the knowledge he or she has on pressing education matters.

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