So the Indiana Chamber of Commerce wants to make Indiana’s superintendent of public instruction an appointed position. That isn’t necessarily a bad idea. There are reasonable arguments for and against the approach, as the IU Center for Evaluation and Education Policy explained several years ago.
And to be fair, the chamber took this position before Hoosier voters elected a Democrat, Glenda Ritz, as state superintendent in 2012. The rationale is that the governor and the schools chief should be on the same page when it comes to education. Chamber President Kevin Brinegar says the governor “is seen as the true leader on education policy” and should have a superintendent who will implement his ideas.
Indiana is one of 12 states that elect their chief school officers, according to the National Association of State Boards of Education. In another 12, the governor appoints the education chief. In 23 states, the chief is appointed by the state board of education.
But even if you think Indiana’s superintendent should be appointed, there’s a wrong way and a right way to go about making the change.
The wrong way is what the chamber is proposing: Having the Republican-controlled legislature rewrite the law to remove Ritz from office before her term is up. That would be a slap in the face to the 1,332,755 Hoosiers who voted for Ritz in 2012 – more than voted for Republican Gov. Mike Pence.
House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President Pro Tem David Long seem to recognize that it could be politically risky to toss out the only Democratic state office-holder, one who was elected with GOP voter support. On the other hand, with majorities of 71-29 in the House and 40-10 in the Senate, do they have that much to lose?
But let’s assume the chamber is taking this position on principle. Here’s the right way make the change: Wait until 2016, then persuade Republicans to nominate a state superintendent candidate who agrees.
The election would be a referendum on whether the position should be elected or appointed. If the Republican candidate wins, he or she should immediately resign and insist that the legislature change the law to let the governor name the state superintendent.
Regardless of which party holds the governor’s office.