Should schools chief be appointed? Let the voters decide

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.


7 thoughts on “Should schools chief be appointed? Let the voters decide

  1. Maybe the current appointees of the State Board or Education should be elected? If Pence does both his powers are immense. The Governor already has the authority to appoint the Board Members and that is where the power is held not with the Superintendent. If the Governor does both… appoints the Board and also appoints the Superintendent, why not just eliminate them both?? Then the Governor could hire someone to be the Manager of Education like Robert Guff and he can make all the decisions and hand out all the directives. You know Pence could be his own Education Czar. You know…just the way it is today!

  2. Why would we ever think our current governor truly has children and their education at the forefront? I really think the people of our state have spoken already when they chose Glenda Ritz over Tony Bennett. This is all so much about sour grapes and I’m tired of having our children politicized. And in what world should a politician know more about education than teachers/educators and an elected school superintendent who is an educator?

  3. Our System seemed to work fine for years, until 2012. Hmmm, what happened? Oh, our governor created a second education agency to usurp the official DOE. Let’s address that problem!

  4. Brinegar wants the Governor to have total control over education policy since Pence is already aligned with the Chamber’s views. It’s in Chamber’s best interest to push the Legislature to make the superintendent’s position an appointed one. That way they get what they want.

    I’m not convinced it won’t happen despite the rhetoric from Bosma. The Governor would be happy to have the Board and Superintendent rubber stamp his education agenda. Education policy would be just another way the Governor can consolidate his power and promote his conservative vision.

  5. Kevin Brinegar is speaking @ DePauw University on February 15th. Wouldn’t it be interesting for a group of educators and concerned parents who support public education and who voted for Glenda Ritz attended en masse? Perhaps he could be “coaxed” into explain his position further and to address the “dysfunction” that he has described that regularly occurs at state board of education meetings?

  6. Pingback: Governor wants to appoint state superintendent | School Matters

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