It’s an interesting coincidence that news broke of a settlement between Tony Bennett and the State Ethics Commission just as a another dispute between Glenda Ritz – Bennett’s successor as Indiana superintendent of public instruction – and the State Board of Education may be exploding.
The ethics commission opened an investigation of Bennett last year after Associated Press reporter Tom LoBianco disclosed emails that show Bennett directed staff to do political work on state time. We won’t know details until Thursday, but Bennett’s high-powered lawyers announced the deal, so it’s likely he’ll face a wrist-slap or less.
Meanwhile, Wednesday’s state board meeting could be the ugliest yet in a series marked by nearly open warfare between the elected Democratic state superintendent and the 10 board members appointed by Republican Gov. Mike Pence. On the agenda:
- A resolution that criticizes Ritz for her handling of Indiana’s waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind law and seeks to elbow her aside for purposes of responding to a federal critique.
- A proposal to change procedures so the state board and its staff, not just Ritz, will determine the time, place and agenda items for board meetings.
- An item that says “initiate rulemaking on accountability.” This could mean almost anything, but one possibility is prescribing how schools evaluate teachers.
Ritz’s supporters, including the Indiana State Teachers Association, have been rallying the troops to attend the meeting and back the superintendent. Ritz issued a statement on the NCLB resolution, saying she’s asked Pence to pull it and warning it “will place our waiver in serious jeopardy.” Continue reading