According to the minutes of the SBOE meeting on June 23, 2014, a Board member wanted to add an agenda item to consider a resolution regarding the Indiana Department of Education’s (IDOE) application for a renewal of the state’s waiver from the requirements of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), known as “No Child Left Behind.” He wanted the SBOE to review and provide feedback on the waiver application, and claimed that the IDOE had not provided the SBOE with all of the materials related to the waiver. The new agenda item was unable to be added because Board operating procedures, developed jointly with a taxpayer-funded consultant, do not allow additions to the agenda within five days of a meeting. Furthermore, the original ESEA waiver was filed on Nov. 14, 2011, and a review of SBOE minutes revealed that the original waiver was only briefly discussed during SBOE meetings in September and October 2011 and was not discussed at the Nov. 7, 2011 meeting, just one week prior to its filing. So, not only was the request unprecedented, but it was yet another demonstration of the type of disrespectful, micromanaging approach the SBOE, a governor-appointed board, has taken with State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Glenda Ritz, who was elected by 1.3 million Hoosiers to do what is best for public education in Indiana.
That disagreement led to two resolutions, both of which were adopted on Wednesday. The first is a resolution regarding ESEA waiver compliance, which essentially claims negligence on the part of Ritz and the IDOE and gives the SBOE far-reaching, unilateral authority on education policy across the state. The first criticism in the resolution is that Indiana was found to be out of compliance with their ESEA waiver by the U.S. Department of Education in 9 of 18 areas. That waiver was approved in February 2012, and Glenda Ritz took office in January 2013. It seems to me the SBOE should be criticizing former State Supt. Tony Bennett, who also made the news this week because the state Ethics Commission found him guilty of using state resources and staff to conduct campaign activities, fining him a whopping $5,000. Perhaps Indiana was out of compliance with its ESEA waiver in the first place because Bennett and his staff were too busy calling campaign donors.
During discussion of the ESEA resolution, Glenda Ritz produced a literal stack of correspondence between her, IDOE, SBOE members, and board staff regarding the waiver demonstrating the claims of poor communication from IDOE were false. Further, it was revealed that CECI, the Governor’s duplicate education agency that is costing taxpayers $5 million and employs a number of six-figure salary SBOE staff, filed a critique of Indiana’s most recent waiver application with the U.S. Department of Education. Passing this resolution and filing such a critique were irresponsible and reckless actions that do absolutely nothing to advance public education in Indiana. All these actions do are undermine Ritz and the IDOE and jeopardize the ESEA waiver and its accompanying flexibility with millions of dollars in federal Title I funds. If the SBOE and CECI were so determined to censure Ritz, why would they not wait until the waiver application had been reviewed? This gross lack of judgment could have devastating repercussions for school corporations across the state.
But, that was not enough for the SBOE. Next up was a resolution regarding board operating procedures, which stated explicitly that it was in response to the disagreement on June 23, 2014 between Supt. Ritz and SBOE members. ISTA alerted its members that this resolution was an attempt to strip authority away from Ritz. SBOE members stated publicly that ISTA was spreading false information and one member’s wife even went to Twitter to make the same claim. Here are a few of the changes:
1. Replace “The Chair shall determine the location of the meetings in consultation with the Board staff responsible for meeting logistics and streaming” with “Board staff shall determine the location of the meetings in consultation with the Chair or the Chair’s designee.”
2. Replace “Special meetings will be held at a date and time convenient to the members and at a location determined by the Chair” with “Special meetings will be held at a date and time convenient to the members and at a location determined by Board staff in consultation with the Chair or the Chair’s Designee. Members must provide their calendar availability within 48 hours after a request for a special meeting has been made. Following this 48-hour period, Board staff may proceed to select a date for the special meeting, provided that a quorum may be obtained.”
3. Add “This appeals procedure applies to all actions and decisions otherwise addressed in these Board Meeting Procedures, including, but not limited to, calling a special meeting or the addition of agenda items.
Interpretation of Board Meeting Procedures
If a dispute arises at any time during a meeting as to the interpretation of any part of the Board Meeting Procedures, a Board member may move to adopt his/her interpretation of the provision(s) at issue. If another member seconds the motion, then the Chair shall put the question to the members, who shall decide by majority vote whether to adopt that interpretation. Such vote shall occur during the meeting in which the dispute arose, and may not be delayed to a future meeting.”
To suggest that these changes do not strip authority away from the Supt. Ritz as Chair of the SBOE is insulting. The changes are in plain English. Two of them replace “Chair” with “Board staff” and the third suggests that the interpretation of meeting procedures could change at any time from moment to moment based on any SBOE member’s interpretation. What other conclusion could be made given the facts? Simply put, a Board member did not get his way, so the SBOE changed the rules, and in the process will allow new agenda items to be added and special meetings to be called without public notice. And they claim that Glenda Ritz and IDOE lack transparency!
Critics of Ritz continue to ask what she has done, yet every time she makes a proposal, she is met with this kind of reaction. It is nonsensical and has nothing to do with advancing public education in Indiana. We must let our public officials know how we feel, both now and at the ballot box in November!