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Senate, House GOP Differ On State Board Of Education Composition
Phil Squattrito

 Republican lawmakers Thursday advanced a bill aimed at reducing the power of the Indiana school superintendent and amending the makeup of the State Board of Education, but there appears to be a difference of opinion on how.

The bill still strips the superintendent of the automatic right to chair the board and allows the Board to elect its own chair, but an amendment passed Thursday changes some of the board makeup.

The bill mandated keeping the current 11 members makeup of the board. The amendment increases that number to 13, but says there must be at least six educators on the panel – 50-percent more than the current model.

Republicans were upset incumbent superintendent Glenda Ritz didn’t appear before the committee, and instead sent her chief lobbyist, John Barnes, to do the job. Rep. Woody Burton (R-Whiteland) complained that was a microcosm of the dysfunction the bill is trying to fix.

“I requested to talk to you and the Superintendent about dyslexia, and I was told every time you’d get back to me, and I never heard anything from you until I introduced a bill about dyslexia, and then when I was called into the meeting, I was told that it had already been fixed, and then I found out that it wasn’t,” Burton says.

Rep. Vernon Smith (D-Gary), a longtime school administrator, chided Governor Mike Pence for the same thing.

"He has not come before us, but he has delegated staff to come before us. I certainly think the Superintendent has the right to delegate staff to be here," Smith says.

Ritz supporters say the bill is little more than a means of taking away the power of the only Democrat to hold statewide office.

Should the bill pass the full House, it will return to the Senate for concurrence. If the Senate does not go along with the amendment, the bill will go to a conference committee.

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