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State board must work with Ritz — or quit

VernG. Smith.  | Provided Photo~Sun-Times Media

Vernon G. Smith. | Provided Photo~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: November 28, 2013 6:09AM



The entire State Board of Education should resign.

If these individuals do not want to work with Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz, a Democrat elected with more votes than any other Indiana candidate in 2012, then they should resign and let people who truly care about Indiana’s students serve on the board.

These members are partisan, appointed by Republican governors. Even the one who calls himself a “Democrat” and another who alleges to be an “independent,” despite his long-time relationship with the Republican Party, are drinking Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett’s tea-flavored Kool-Aid.

The State Board of Education is as inept and irresponsible as the Congressional Republicans who held America hostage for 16 days over health care for all citizens. It is time for these dangerous, partisan games to stop, both in Washington and Indianapolis.

The current state board continues to carry Bennett’s water, however tainted it may be. They are not fulfilling the Legislature’s will because we passed bipartisan changes to Bennett’s plans. Yet, the board shows its contempt for the Legislature and Superintendent Ritz.

Comparing all schools as if they are the same is simplistic and ridiculous. We show more respect for basketball than we do education. In high school basketball, there are classes based upon size. Poor, urban schools face significantly greater educational challenges than wealthy, suburban schools. Yet, the state lumps all schools together on academic matters.

I volunteer and serve as an assistant principal at an urban school. My contract is for one dollar per year. This is in addition to my job as an education professor at Indiana University Northwest. What I am finding in today’s urban schools is that teachers spend more time disciplining students and maintaining control than they do teaching. The environment in lower socio-economic settings is significantly more challenging than in those of upper middle-class schools.

Students in the suburbs don’t have to worry about drive-by shootings and drug dealers in the neighborhoods. In Carmel, Fishers, and Munster, students generally come home to families and nutritious dinners. In cities, several students have only one parent who works multiple jobs, so the parent is not home. Some students are homeless. Many never have enough to eat, much less nutritious food.

How can one compare beautiful, but bruised apples with healthy, organic oranges? Yet, our state does. If Indiana chooses not to distinguish between the haves and have-nots, then it should at least give added weight to at-risk schools.

I believe in our urban school students. I was one. By the grace of God, I received a good education and succeeded. Indiana should offer every student a quality education.

Superintendent Glenda Ritz offers the hope of a renaissance for Indiana’s public schools, including ones in urban and rural areas. Hoosiers have given her their trust by a wide vote margin. It is time for the State Board of Education to cooperate with her or resign and let someone else do the job.

State Rep. Vernon G. Smith (D- Gary) is the ranking Democratic member of the House Education Committee.



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