Indiana House passes bill that would strip Superintendent Ritz of power

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The Indiana House passed a measure Monday 58-40 that would essentially strip State Superintendent Glenda Ritz of her power. It now advances to the State Senate.

It comes hours after Gov. Mike Pence called the state Board of Education “dysfunctional,” urging lawmakers to pass the bill, which allows the Board of Education to elect its chairperson. Right now the state superintendent automatically holds that post.

“I’ve never seen the dysfunction we’ve had over the last two years, and I’ve been very quiet about it,” House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) said. “I’ve almost been a full-time mediator. I feel that way anyway.”

The bill’s passage, supported by Republicans, follows months of battles between Ritz, an elected Democrat, and Republican leaders including Gov. Pence.

Democrats are still working to create a public outcry to stop the bill from reaching the governor’s desk.

“It’s a little bit like the big bully on the school yard masking a lot of fears,” House Minority Leader Scott Pelath (D-Michigan City) said. “What is it you’re afraid of? What is it? This one lone Democratic voice?”

After the bill’s passage, Pence issued a statement saying, ““Allowing the State Board of Education to elect its chair is an important step to restore the kind of harmony and consensus needed to serve our students and our schools.”

A Senate committee will debate the bill Tuesday morning before heading to the floor.

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