Two years ago, Glenda Ritz pulled off an astonishing upset in Indiana when she trounced rightwing favorite Tony Bennett to win the position as State Superintendent of Instruction. Bennett far outspent her but lost anyway. She got more votes than new Governor Mike Pence. Since then, Pence has worked tirelessly to undermine Ritz’s authority and transfer her responsibilities to other agencies, including one that he created. He wants her powerless. He wants to reverse the election results and undermine democracy in Indiana. Ritz’s defeated opponent Tony Bennett was immediately hired as Commissioner of Education in Florida, but resigned hurriedly after a scandal in Indiana broke about grade-fixing during his tenure to protect the charter school of a big campaign contributor.

Here is a report from retired teacher Phyllis Bush of the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education. Bush is a board member of the Network for Public Education.

“ISTA has learned that the State Board of Education intends to further diminish Superintendent Ritz’s role as Chair of the board and transfer some responsibilities to the board’s staff at the Center for Education and Career Innovation (CECI). The actions will take place at the board meeting on Wednesday.

“The board will propose dramatic new board procedures through approving a resolution that will form a one-time, ad hoc committee that will approve the new measures intended to cut into the Superintendent’s traditional role as Chair.

“It’s no secret that the Governor and the CECI have wanted to remove Superintendent Ritz as Chair of the State Board of Education. In December, it was disclosed in a leaked CECI memo that Ritz being the Chair was perceived as a “problem” that should be addressed by the legislature. The goal then was to have the Chair appointed by the Governor.

“This latest move coincides with efforts to seemingly make the Department of Education a minor administrative bureaucracy folded within one agency under the Governor’s office.

“Efforts first began when the Governor, with the stroke of a pen and without legislative approval, created and diverted funding for his duplicate education agency, the CECI.

“We learned just weeks ago that the Governor’s Indiana Career Council has adopted a new strategic plan that includes consolidating more than 30 state agencies and programs, including the Department of Education, totaling more than $650 million, under one lead agency directed by the Governor.

“This new resolution brought forth by the governor-appointed state board of education members is the latest in this fixation over gaining singular power at the expense of the authority of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

“Please contact the members of the State Board of Education and urge them to work WITH Superintendent Ritz instead of continuing on this path of disrespect for her, the office she holds and the 1.3 million voters who elected her.”