INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The battle for control of Indiana’s education policy escalated Friday when top Republican lawmakers shifted calculation of school accountability grades for the 2012-2013 school year from the Department of Education to the Legislature’s bill-drafting shop.
House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President Pro Tem David Long signed off on a request from Republican appointees to the State Board of Education.
The board members crafted a letter Wednesday questioning why Superintendent Glenda Ritz has yet to release the A-F grades or teacher effectiveness ratings. The letter, which was obtained by The Associated Press, also requested that responsibility for compiling the rankings be shifted from the Department of Education to the Legislature’s nonpartisan analysis and bill-drafting arm.
The move comes amid an overhaul of the grading formula following a grade-changing scandal involving former state schools chief Tony Bennett. Bennett resigned as Florida’s schools chief in August after The Associated Press reported he had overhauled Indiana’s grading formula to ensure a charter school founded by a top Republican donor received an A.
It’s also the latest scuffle in what’s becoming a power struggle between Republicans and Ritz, the lone Democrat holding a statewide office. Since Ritz defeated Bennett last November, lawmakers have considered diluting her power on the board, a Bennett ally on the board has taken control of long-term planning for the group and Gov. Mike Pence created a second education agency charged with shaping education policy along with job-training initiatives.
The A-F grades have become increasingly important in recent years. They help determine teacher pay and school funding and whether schools that receive failing grades are turned over to private operators. They also play a role in home sales as families weigh education rankings before deciding where to buy a house.