Indiana State Sen. Jean D. Breaux.
Updated: December 24, 2013 2:43PM
A year ago, I was optimistic about the prospect of working with the new Pence administration to improve education in our state. Governor Pence commented in his first State of the State address his desire to work with the new Superintendent of Public Instruction, Glenda Ritz. Today, I am less optimistic as the governor’s actions do not share the spirit of his words.
Superintendent Glenda Ritz was elected one year ago, receiving more votes than Governor Pence, with a mission to strengthen Indiana’s schools and to provide teachers, parents and administrators with the resources they need to ensure Indiana students receive the highest quality education possible.
However, the governor and his appointed State Board of Education have erected roadblocks to impede her progress beginning with the 2013 legislative session when funding was stripped from the state Department of Education’s budget. Over the summer, the governor increased the size of state government by unilaterally, and without legislative oversight or input, creating the Center for Education and Career Innovation, establishing it as another agency. The funding taken from the state Department of Education through the 2013 budget process was subsequently used to fund the Center for Education and Career Innovation to duplicate tasks already conducted by the education department.
This new agency continues to draw resources from the state education department at a time when Indiana’s revenue has come up short. It seems hypocritical that the governor created a brand-new agency to perform duplicate efforts while asking the rest of the state’s agencies and public universities to further cut their operating budgets by up to $75 million.
The governor is willing to pay the over half million dollars in Center for Education and Career Innovation salaries for his 16-person agency while asking the state agencies to make more cuts. It’s clear to me that no matter the price tag, the governor’s aim is to enable this unilaterally-created agency to oversee education policy in the state of Indiana, despite the fact that those responsibilities already belong to Superintendent Glenda Ritz.
I’m fearful that during the upcoming legislative session, the governor’s administration will continue to encroach on the constitutionally-established Superintendent and her responsibilities. In fact, a bill has already been drafted to gain access to sensitive and personal student data, which is currently the property of, and safeguarded by, the state Department of Education. Should the Center for Education and Career Innovation achieve this goal, this new agency will indeed become a second state education agency.
It is the governor’s job to establish the state’s career and economic development policy, but it is the job of Glenda Ritz, who was overwhelmingly elected by Indiana voters, to oversee education policy in Indiana. It’s time for the governor and the state board to respect the will of Hoosier voters and stop obstructing Superintendent Ritz’s efforts.
Sen. Breaux represents Indiana Senate District 34 on the near eastside of Indianapolis.