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Education Board Would Be Reduced, Ritz Would Be Chair Under Latest Bill

Gretchen Frazee

State school superintendent Glenda Ritz would remain chair of the State Board of Education until after she wins or loses reelection next year, under the latest version of a bill to end the feuding between Ritz and the board.

The board would undergo changes first. The bill shrinks it from 11 members to nine starting in June, and shifts two appointments from the governor to the House speaker and Senate president pro tem.

Sen. Travis Holdman (R-Markle) says reducing the size of the board would both make it more efficient and force a membership shakeup, which he suggests is needed to give the board a clean start.

Ritz advisor John Barnes says letting voters speak before changing the chairmanship is an important change, but he calls the bill unnecessary. He says a newly-added provision requiring the Department of Education to promptly supply school accountability reports and other data to the board doesn‘t add anything to existing practice.

Board members have charged Ritz has been slow to supply data -- Barnes says those complaints have been exaggerated.

Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane (D-Anderson) says legislators should’ve stayed out of the issue.

“What has gone on here is a bona fide difference of opinion between the members of the board of education, all appointed by the governor, and his philosophy on education, which is different than that of the elected superintendent of public instruction,” Lanane says.

Holdman says there may still be further tweaks before a final vote.

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