By Gary Qi
Indiana’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz sees this legislative session as a missed opportunity.
Three months ago, Ritz unveiled her agenda focusing on preventing schools from being negatively impacted by the 2015 ISTEP, pushing for changes to standardized testing and working to stop the teacher shortage in Indiana.
Ritz was disappointed her push to pause the so-called expansion of school voucher failed.
“Once again in this session, supporters of public schools had to spend their time fighting against political action that expands access to vouchers, an action that would further demean the teaching profession,” said Ritz.
Lawmakers passed legislation extending the time frame in which a student can apply for a voucher. Supporters argue it’s not an expansion because the legislation does not change eligibility criteria, but opponents say increasing the time frame will increase the number of voucher students.
Ritz said the legislative session also failed to address the teacher shortage of Indiana, in a comprehensive and substantial way.
“Last fall, I created Blue Ribbon Commission to address the teacher shortage. This bipartisan commission spent months developing data-driven, research-based, systematic solutions to address Indiana’s teacher shortage. These recommendations by the education profession were ignored,” said Ritz.
Even though lawmakers passed a bill to get rid of ISTEP, Ritz didn’t feel like legislators did enough.
“Our teachers will not see local control for better compensation. They will not see high stakes removed from state testing. They will not see additional support for mentoring professional development. And finally, they will not see a systematic approach to recruiting a diverse workforce,” said Ritz.
Ritz was glad to see legislature take bipartisan action to the 2015 ISTEP scores from unfavorably affecting a teacher’s evaluation, pay or bonuses. They also prevented the 2015 ISTEP scores from hurting a school’s A-F accountability grade.
“At least once, the legislature put politics aside, agreed with my approach to hold school harmless and did the right thing for our students, schools and communities,” said Ritz. “However, bipartisan common sense did not last long in the Statehouse.
Ritz said next year she will bring back the unresolved issues.
“The inaction of others in the Statehouse will not keep me from fighting to support our students, educators, families and communities. Indiana deserves nothing less,” said Ritz.
Gary Qi is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com.