GOSHEN — None of the recent shenanigans at state board of education meetings seemed to be on Glenda Ritz’s mind when she spoke in Goshen on Friday morning, Nov. 15.
Ritz, Indiana’s superintendent of public instruction, put aside politics to talk about an issue close to local educators’ hearts: early childhood education. Her audience — attendees of the United Way of Elkhart County’s annual Success by Six summit — hung on to every word, nodding in assent as Ritz said that many of Indiana’s children don’t have what they need to be ready for school.
“I’m right along with you in early education,” Ritz said. “Keep working on it — it’s going to be a big topic in this legislative session.”
She later took some time to address other big topics in Indiana education, such as her lawsuit against state board of education members and her conflict with an agency created by Gov. Mike Pence, the Center for Education and Career Innovation.
Ritz said that the CECI is “something I didn’t anticipate having to work with when I took office.”
“There’s a conflict,” she said. “You’ve got two agencies trying to deal with education policy.”
Ritz said that she met with Pence about her concerns soon after he formed the new agency, but hasn’t met with him since.
“I do not know the role of his agency, but from my experiences over the last several months, it is bent on taking over the state board of education,” Ritz said.
Pence has said that the CECI is not taking authority away from the board of education, according to the Indianapolis Star.
On Oct. 22, Ritz filed suit against the 10 members of the state board of education. She said that board members had taken official action without her knowledge by sending a letter to Republican leaders asking for another agency to determine the state’s A-F school grades.
That lawsuit was dismissed by a Marion County judge last week because, according to the Muncie Star-Press, Ritz cannot go to court without representation from the state attorney general.
Ritz said on Friday that a “third party” has filed complaints on the same issue — looking into whether board members violated Indiana’s Open Door law.
She also said that her lawsuit wasn’t about individual board members. Instead, it was about upholding state law.
“I have to speak up about that,” she said.