Monday, April 20, 2015

Case Study No. 1904: Glenda Ritz

Sen. Long: Glenda Ritz is a librarian
The power struggle between Governor Mike Pence and Ritz is becoming more partisan and more personal.
Tags: Indianapolis local news news WISH-TV Indiana
Added: 2 months ago
From: wish
Views: 43

[scene opens with two news anchors speaking directly to the camera]
DAVID BARRAS: A GOP effort to take power away from Democratic state school superintendent Glenda Ritz advanced in the Indiana House today.
BROOKE MARTIN: New at five-thirty, Twenty Four Hour News Eight's Jim Shella is here to report the debate is becoming more partisan and personal. Jim?
[cut to a male reporter speaking directly to the camera, as a television monitor behind him shows a picture of a woman (curly blonde hair, business suit) with text reading "Removing Ritz"]
JIM SHELLA: Yeah, this is really a power struggle between Governor Pence and Glenda Ritz, with state lawmakers caught in the middle. GOP leaders don't seem to mind.
[cut to footage from WFWA's public-access program "PrimeTime 39"]
JIM SHELLA: [in voice over] On a recent public television program in Fort Wayne, Senate President Pro Tem David Long seemed to question the qualifications of state superintendent Glenda Ritz.
[cut to footage of the superintendent, then back to the senate president speaking on "PrimeTime 39"]
DAVID LONG: Now, in all fairness, superintendent Ritz is a librarian, okay? She has never run a school system. She's probably the first superintendent we've ever had that has not had that experience.
[cut to a man speaking to reporters at a "Support Ritz" rally]
JIM SHELLA: [in voice over] For supporters of Ritz, the comments have been viewed as both an attack on her and an attack on the voters who elected her.
JOHN ZODY: He still, uh, said it in a very condescending way.
[cut to footage of students sitting in a classroom]
JIM SHELLA: [in voice over] State Democratic chairman John Zody said it shows a lack of respect.
[cut back to the man speaking at the rally]
JOHN ZODY: She knows what she's talking about, and she's been an educator for almost forty years.
[cut to the senate president speaking before a meeting in the Indiana statehouse]
DAVID LONG: First and foremost, y'know, understand that Glenda Ritz is a librarian.
JIM SHELLA: [in voice over] At a media availability in the statehouse, Senator Long insisted that he respects Ritz.
[cut to footage of the superintendent speaking in front of a podium]
JIM SHELLA: [in voice over] He also stood behind the bill to allow the State Board of Education to elect its chairman, a step that would remove Ritz in all likelihood.
[cut back to the senate president speaking]
DAVID LONG: Those who oppose or would like to make it something it's not, will try to claim it's a personal attack and it's really not. It's about trying to make sure that the board operates more effectively.
[cut back to footage of the superintendent speaking in front of a podium]
JIM SHELLA: [in voice over] And as for the the "librarian" remark?
[cut back to the senate president speaking]
DAVID LONG: I don't apologize for anything I said.
[cut back to footage of the superintendent speaking in front of a podium]
JIM SHELLA: [in voice over] And that means Glenda Ritz remains a GOP target.
[cut back to the reporter speaking directly to the camera]
JIM SHELLA: Republicans in the Indiana House this afternoon softened the bill, to change the selection process for the state board of education leader, if only slightly. They voted to make it take effect on July First, instead of immediately after the governor signs it. Democratic attempts to block the bill were unsuccessful.
[the camera pans out to show the reporter sitting next to the two anchors]
DAVID BARRAS: So Jim, what happens next?
JIM SHELLA: That bill will be up for a final vote in the Indiana house next week. There will also be votes in the state Senate on a similar bill next week. Uh, this appears to be on rails.
DAVID BARRAS: Interesting, um, they could've done it before. They had a super majority last year when Ritz, y'know, was ... had just taken office. Why now?
JIM SHELLA: Well, I think we've all witnessed the dysfunction on the state board of education, and I'm not taking the Republicans' side here. There are a lotta people you can blame for what's going on there, but they had an eleven-hour meeting yesterday. It's not working well, and that's the reason that the Republicans are giving to say that there needs to be a change now.
BROOKE MARTIN: Alright. Jim, thanks.



INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - The leader of the Indiana Senate is defending himself against criticism after he referred to Democratic state schools Superintendent Glenda Ritz as a librarian.

Republican Senate President Pro Tem David Long said Thursday that he meant nothing personal against Ritz during a recent call-in show on Fort Wayne station WFWA. Long says he was pointing out that Ritz has faced a learning curve because she hasn't been a school administrator.

Long's remark is being used by Ritz supporters as the Republican-dominated Legislature is advancing proposals that would allow appointees of GOP Gov. Mike Pence to replace her as the State Board of Education's chairman.

Indiana Democratic Chairman John Zody calls Long's remark condescending.

Ritz was a school librarian before being elected in 2012.



"In all fairness, Superintendent Ritz was a librarian, OK?" - David Long, Indiana Senate president.

There aren't too many nice ways to interpret that statement, made by the state Senate's leading Republican about the embattled Glenda Ritz, the lone Democratic statewide officeholder in Indiana.

It was timely and, obviously, dismissive snark aimed at the superintendent's credentials, as Long tried to frame why the General Assembly was looking at a handful of bills this session that would marginalize Ritz's role as chairwoman of the Indiana State Board of Education. One of those,House Bill 1609, advanced out of the House Education Committee on Thursday.

"She has never run a school system," Long said Jan. 23 during an interview with WFWA, on the Fort Wayne PBS station's "PrimeTime 39." "And that is a bit of a problem for her - she's on a learning curve there."

Someone might have nudged Long and let him know the only thing missing was the word "just" - as in, "Ritz was just a librarian, OK?" - to sum up the disdain implied.

Off the cuff or intentionally placed in that lengthy interview, Long's take is a fair place to start when looking at the trajectory of a turf battle that began in earnest in November 2012. That's when Ritz unexpectedly toppled Tony Bennett, the Republican torchbearer for all things related to an aggressive school reform movement.

(Long's one-liner also serves as a go-to way in the future to line up credentials across the Statehouse. Because, in all fairness, our governor was a radio host, OK? And a congressman, but you get the gist.)

Ritz has known the broadsides were coming, as she indicated Thursday during testimony before the Indiana House Education Committee on bills being marketed as ways to smooth tension between the superintendent and Gov. Mike Pence's appointees on the State Board of Education.

"This political power move," Ritz said, "is unnecessary."

Ritz didn't stick around to answer follow-up questions from House members after a 775-word statement meant to defend her office and her track record. But she's right.

Let's put it in the immediately immortal words of Mike Pence, who spent much of the week trying to deflect the way a planned "Just IN" news service blew up in his administration's lap.

Is Indiana's GOP leadership heading toward another "understandable misunderstanding" - this time misreading how stiff-arming Ritz is going to play across Indiana?

What happens during State Board of Education meetings can be a dense stew of educational-ese, leaving all but those seasoned in the mechanics of school hallway procedures and politics in the dust.

What people can see is what Long, Pence and others in the Republican supermajority see, as well - tension that isn't going away, instead building as Ritz's first term hits its midpoint.

No one's willing to deny that.

State Rep. Vernon Smith, a Gary Democrat on the House Education Committee, posed a solution from the other direction when debating House Bill 1486, which would transfer oversight of most educational policy from Ritz to the State Board of Education. His proposition: If tension is the problem, let's just abandon the State Board of Education.

That amendment, offered during a House Education Committee meeting Thursday morning, drew laughs before being voted down, 7-4, along party lines.

In last week's interview with PBS in Fort Wayne, Long wasn't laughing when he said the Statehouse couldn't afford to wait to impose a fix.

"Superintendent Ritz deserves to be the superintendent of public instruction," Long said on "Prime Time 39." "But the fact is that we can't wait for her to run her course of her tenure - that might not be until 2020 - and have the board not working. That's not good for Indiana's kids and parents and schools."

Do Hoosiers expect level heads to guide education policy? You know it.

But in Long's comment is an assumption that will come back to bite those looking to take down Ritz now. He apparently sees Ritz winning again in 2016, even if Republicans limit her role.

That's a concession Republicans can either correct by finding someone to get Ritz in 2016 or live with for the next six years.

For now, there's a reason why Ritz was elected. Perfect or not - and many times she has not been, including her inappropriately swift exit from Thursday's committee hearing - Ritz means something in the debate over education policy, even if a Republican supermajority would rather ignore it.

Personally, I'm right with those who say the state superintendent's position should be an appointed one. But that's something that needs to be measured in approach, not one cobbled together on the fly or played as a personal attack.

Or, at least, something that comes across as a personal attack.

In all fairness, this an attack on Indiana voters, OK?

The Statehouse GOP understandably misunderstands that at its own peril.



Ritz: From librarian to Superintendent
Colin Likas | Apr 02, 2013

Library Media Specialist at Crooked Creek Elementary School.

That was Glenda Ritz's most-recent title before she pulled what some pundits called an upset by winning the election for Indiana's Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Now, Ritz has gone from helping young students with books to watching peers attempt to limit the power her new position grants her.

The Democrat Ritz defeated incumbent Tony Bennett to gain the position in the Nov. 6 election.

One of the key components of Ritz's winning platform was her opposition to standardized testing in Indiana's K-12 schools.

"I got into this race because of high-stakes testing, when the state of Indiana implemented another pass-fail test at third grade for reading," Ritz said.

Ritz's resume is filled with positions in education, but none of these positions dealt directly with working on education legislation at the state level.

According to her website, Ritz is one of only 155 National Board Certified Teachers in the state. She was also the President of the Washington Township Education Association for 15 years.

Also working against Ritz in the race was the fact that Bennett outspent Ritz during the campaigning process by more than $1 million.

He was the Republican candidate in a commonly Republican state.

But Ritz and her "grassroots campaign" achieved victory.

"I am so excited for the children of Indiana," Ritz said after winning the election. "The next four years will have an educational agenda, not a political agenda."

But Ritz faced challenges before she could even get off the ground in her new position.

The Indiana State Board of Education voted nine to two in favor of REPA II, a package that ensured individuals do not need a degree in education to become teachers in the state. Other requirements to become an Indiana teacher were also loosened.

Ritz was at the State Board meeting where the package was discussed and voted on. Her pleas for State Board members to discuss the package further before considering passing it went unnoticed.

"I'm not a fan of adjunct teachers taking a content test and then entering a classroom," Ritz said. "I prefer a more rigorous pre-service training."

Indiana's education scene features primarily Republican players, and Democrat Ritz is still working to earn their respect and trust.

Bennett said after the election that the rhetoric Ritz instilled in Indiana's teachers unions was "a mandate to basically say that Tony Bennett isn't a good person who doesn't like public education."

Despite what that rhetoric might or might not have said, it worked toward earning Ritz her position as Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Now, she will attempt to do the will of Indiana's people while working with many individuals who oppose her views.

"Students will experience a well-rounded curriculum taught by highly-trained educators," Ritz said. "I am so excited about the students of Indiana."

Among the issues Ritz plans to tackle are Indiana's voucher program, which grew to record size under Bennett last year, and standardized testing in state schools.

Ritz showed opposition to both subjects throughout her campaign and continues to do so today.

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