Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Columns

December 10, 2013

TOM LoBIANCO: No apparent end to Pence, Ritz communication woes

Belligerents battle over key parts of education system.

(Continued)

And Ritz has an almost allergic inability to deal with anyone other than Pence, even as state board members air lists of problems working with her.

“I will say that the CECI, we actually have a document that says that their goal is to remove me as the chair in the legislative session. And, if not that way, then doing it through the board operating procedures,” Ritz said after the board meeting that was nominally called to work on relations between her and other board members.

At the core is control over key parts of the state’s education system. The governor appoints the State Board of Education members, who have broad rule-making authority, but Ritz chairs the board. Ritz, meanwhile, administers the state’s $6.6 billion K-12 education budget. But lawmakers write the legislation, including the school-funding formula, which sets the parameters on how it’s spent.

House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, has said lawmakers may need to step into the state’s continuing education battle but that he would prefer to avoid the fight. Even if lawmakers do weigh in, he has flatly ruled out stripping Ritz of any power over the board.

“We’re doing our best — both [Senate President Pro Tem David] Long and myself — to encourage dialogue and encourage open communication,” he said last week.

Bosma noted governors and superintendents with opposing viewpoints have often found ways to work together before. Bosma started his career working with former Republican School Superintendent H. Dean Evans, who had to work with then-Democratic Gov. Evan Bayh. He also noted former Gov. Mitch Daniels used to find ways to work with former Schools Superintendent Suellen Reed, although he leaves out the part where Daniels recruited Tony Bennett to oust Reed and push the education agenda he sought.

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