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Key GOP senator opposes changes to Indiana schools chief position

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press
Tuesday, December 4, 2012 - 6:08 pm

INDIANAPOLIS — The leader of Indiana's Senate Education Committee said Tuesday that Republicans shouldn't change the state schools superintendent position to one appointed by the governor following the election of a Democrat to that office.

Republican Sen. Dennis Kruse said he would oppose any effort to make the job an appointed one, at least until incoming schools Superintendent Glenda Ritz's term expires in 2016.

"I like more people being elected overall. I just think it's healthier for our society and healthier for our economy and accountability to have more people elected, to have more people answer to the people," Kruse said.

Ritz, an Indianapolis school librarian, upset Republican incumbent Tony Bennett in last month's election with the help of teachers who opposed changes he pushed, including measures tying teacher pay to student performance, a school takeover plan and the nation's largest use of school vouchers.

Her grass-roots victory sparked renewed Statehouse talk of letting the governor pick the state's top education official. Only 11 states elect their top education official.

Kruse said the idea could merit consideration in Indiana but that it wouldn't be right to make a change before Ritz's term is up.

"They won't get my vote unless they wait," he said.

Kruse was meeting with Ritz on Tuesday afternoon to discuss issues ahead of the 2013 legislative session.

Kruse said lawmakers plan to review the A-F school grading system Bennett rolled out just before the election and could find common ground with Ritz with concerns over the national Common Core Standards and a new third-grade reading test.

"I think there's ground there to work together and to try and make these improvements," he said.

Ritz's campaign was based on the notion that Bennett moved too fast and that his efforts weren't in students' best interest. Many teachers have said they hope she can roll back some of Bennett's changes, but it's unclear how much she'll be able to do as a Democrat working with a Republican governor and Legislature.