Local state board of education member responds to Ritz lawsuit

State Board of Education member David Freitas talks about education issues.

Posted on Oct. 30, 2013 at 1:00 a.m. | Updated on Oct. 30, 2013 at 5:43 p.m.

ELKHART — It’s been one week since state superintendent of public instruction Glenda Ritz filed suit against the 10 members of the state board of education.

Ritz said in a statement that board members allegedly violated Indiana’s Open Door Law when they sent a letter to Republican leaders asking for another agency to determine the 2012-13 school letter grades. She said that she didn’t know the letter was being sent.

But on Tuesday, Oct. 29, one member of the board said that Ritz was included in talks about having another agency determine the grades.

David Freitas, a professor at Indiana University South Bend and a member of the state board of education for the Elkhart area, said Tuesday that Ritz supported the board’s decision to ask for help with the A-F grades.

“There was no secret meeting, like she claims,” Freitas said. “(Ritz) thought she wasn’t included, and that’s why she filed the lawsuit, but there’s video of her at the last public meeting talking about (the issue) and she supported it.”

He continued, “Whether a letter was sent without her knowledge or not is not really the issue. I hope she is not hanging her entire lawsuit on a technicality.”

Freitas is one of four members of the board who sent a letter to Ritz last Friday, Oct. 25, asking her to drop the lawsuit.

“The letter was sent last Friday, but we haven’t heard back (from Ritz),” Freitas said.

In the meantime, Freitas said that he’s hearing a lot of feedback from Indiana citizens about the education issues in the state.

“Right now, the huge issue is the A-F accountability system,” Freitas said. “By law, we (the state board of education) have to make a decision on the system before Nov. 15. That’s probably the most pressing issue.”

He continued, “The second issue is ... whether Indiana is going to adopt the Common Core or not. That decision will come in several months.”

Freitas said that 80 percent of the letters and emails he is getting now have to do with the Common Core.

“My correspondence is running about eight to one against the Common Core,” Freitas said. “This is correspondence from citizens in Indiana, and some from outside of Indiana. They look like they are organized, frankly. It’s a concerted effort.”

He said that the people he has heard from are against the Common Core for several reasons.

Some are concerned that the federal government will use the Common Core to collect information about students, and students’ parents, through the public school system, he said.

Another issue that Freitas said he has heard primarily from teachers is that the actual standards of the Common Core may not be developmentally appropriate.

“Teachers are concerned that (the Common Core standards) are too difficult (for students), especially for the elementary grades,” Freitas said.

A third concern, he said, is from people who think that Indiana already has some of the best standards in the nation, and there’s no need to change to a new system.

Freitas said he has not made a decision on whether Indiana should adopt the Common Core. He will wait to hear testimonies from citizens during public hearings in March.

Timeline of events since Ritz announced a lawsuit against members of the state board of education on Tuesday, Oct. 22:

* Oct. 24: Greg Zoeller, Ind. attorney general, filed a motion to strike Ritz’s lawsuit, saying that the representation of Ritz’s legal interests are in his hands as the state attorney general.

* Oct. 24: Ritz issues a statement saying that she will continue to pursue the lawsuit, although she is open to settling out of court.

* Oct. 25: Four state board of education members, including Elkhart-area member David Freitas, ask that Ritz drop her lawsuit.

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