By Andi TenBarge
More than 1,000 teachers and supporters of public schools of had already been rallying for well more than an hour when the woman they’d been fighting for made an appearance.
“I am an educator,” state Superintendent Glenda Ritz told the crowd gathered in the Statehouse atrium. “I know what we need in our schools.”
Ritz spoke as one floor above the rally, a state senator chose not to call a bill for a vote that would demote her as chair of the Indiana State Board of Education. That bill could pass the Senate, though, as soon as Tuesday.
“Stop the assault on public education,” said Marilyn Shank, spokesperson for the Indiana Coalition for Public Education. “There are lots of bills out there that are harmful on education.”
Rally supporters said that they want their voices to be heard and say they are infuriated by legislation to strip Ritz of her power. Ritz unseated then-Superintendent Tony Bennett in the 2012 election by gaining 1.3 million votes – more than any other statewide candidate that year.
“I’m a Republican and voted against the policies of Bennett and Mitch Daniels,” the state’s former GOP governor, said Randy Worthington, an 8th grade teacher from Martinsville. “Bennett was immaterial to me.”
Proponents of the legislation said that removing Ritz as chair would help clear up dysfunction among board members.
But others said that the gridlock comes from confusion about who is in charge of education policy making. Shank said that there needs to be a more clear definition about what jobs are designated to the board.
“That’s what the fights are about, ‘Who’s in charge?,’ Shank said. “We to get that settled so we don’t have the dysfunction.”
Lawmakers said that the dysfunction is so great that changes need to be made immediately to prevent more problems.
Andi TenBarge is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students.