One bill to diminish Ritz's power is dead, but threat remains

One of two bills aimed at removing state Superintendent Glenda Ritz from her role as chairwoman of the Indiana State Board of Education is dead, but she still faces the threat of losing power.

One perk of leading a legislative committee is the power to decide what bills get a hearing and what bills will not. Bills that committees don’t consider can’t move forward, and that’s what Senate Education Committee Chairman Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, said today was the plan for House Bill 1609, which would remove from state law a guarantee that the state superintendent must lead the state board.

But Kruse wasn’t necessarily doing Ritz any favors. He said he really just preferred the Senate’s bill that would do largely the same thing.

“I don’t like their version,” Kruse said of the House bill. “I like our version. They’ll have to deal with Senate Bill 1 if they want something to be done. I think ours makes more changes I think are better.”

Like the House bill, Senate Bill 1 would allow the state board of education to elect its own leader. But it would also reduce the board to nine members and change its make-up to include the state superintendent, four members appointed by the governor, two chosen by the Senate president in consultation with the Senate minority leader and two chosen by the House speaker in consultation with the House minority leader.

Currently the state board includes Ritz and 10 members appointed by the governor.

Kruse said he expects that Rep. Robert Behning, R-Indianapolis, chairman of the House Education Committee, will schedule a hearing for the Senate’s bill. Of course, Kruse said, the House can make changes that would require the two chambers to iron out any differences.

“I hope to come to a compromise and solution to have the majority agree,” Kruse said.

The senate education committee considered nine bills today:

  • Tax credits for teachers. House Bill 1005 would give teachers a $200 tax credit for money they spend out of their own pockets for classroom supplies. It passed the committee 8-0 and will next be heard by the Senate Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee.
  • Student loans. House Bill 1042 aims to inform college students about their loan costs. It passed the committee 9-0.
  • Background checks. House Bill 1068 makes changes to the definition of “expanded criminal history check,” which is required for school employees. The bill passed 9-0.
  • Dyslexia trainingHouse Bill 1108 would require teachers seeking certification be trained in identifying students with dyslexia. It was held so lawmakers could finish an amendment. It is scheduled for a vote next week.
  • Dual language immersionHouse Bill 1635 would create a pilot to establish programs that would allow students to learn half the day in a foreign language, such as Chinese, Spanish or French. It passed committee 9-0 and was sent to the Senate Appropriations Committee to consider its costs to the state budget.
  • Transfers for school employeesHouse Bill 1056 would require school districts that have space to permit the children of their employees who live outside the school district to transfer into the district’s schools. It will be up for a vote next week.
  • Student teachingHouse Bill 1188 would ensure that student teachers are assigned only to be mentored by teachers who are rated effective or highly effective. It will be up for a vote next week.
  • High school diplomasHouse Bill 1194 would study the need for changes to Indiana diploma types to ensure they accommodate students in special education and career and technical programs. The committee will vote on it next week.
  • Accelerated degree programHouse Bill 1231 would create college scholarships for students who participate in an accelerated degree program. It be voted on next week.
  • Adult charter high schoolsHouse Bill 1438 is aimed at extending changes to charter school funding to adult charter high schools. The committee will vote on the bill next week.