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EDITORIAL

Can Ritz work with education establishment?

Monday, October 14, 2013 - 12:01 am

For the sake of Hoosier students, we certainly all should hope so.

Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz and the rest of the state’s education establishment are obviously at odds. The only question is whether they will have a contentious relationship or a downright dysfunctional one. For the sake of Hoosier students, everyone should hope for the former.

When Democrat Ritz had her surprising election win over incumbent Republican Tony Bennett, she inherited an education agenda she did not endorse. She must now work with legislators and members of the State Board of Education who drafted the policies that make up that agenda. And they all have to work with a superintendent they are inclined not to trust with the initiatives they give to her.

Ritz threw down a gauntlet of sorts last week in the form of a preemptive complaint. “I think there will be probably be things coming through the legislative process that will try to diminish my power as superintendent,” she said in an interview.

Indeed there might be. The state has already shifted $5 million in staffing for the state board from Ritz’s office to the governor’s office, and the General Assembly could do even more. It could remove her as chair of the education board. It could decide to oversee a greater part of her budget. It could decide to oversee her data.

We urge legislators to remember the political adage “what goes around comes around” and not try to diminish Ritz’s powers vindictively out of petty spite. It would really be the office itself that would be diminished, an office Republicans hope to occupy again one day.

For her part, Ritz could try to gum up the works just by using the powers of her position, and she will be tempted to do so every time she has to implement a policy she doesn’t agree with. She should exercise a little restraint, too.

As corny as it sounds, Ritz and the other members of the education establishment need to work together as much as they can, starting by trying to discover what they have in common.

They can begin with a discussion of testing – how it is done and, especially, what its purpose should be. It has become clear that this state has become far too focused on tests and testing without realizing how the obsession is affecting the rest of the education mission.

It was unfortunate that the state jumped so soon into Common Core academic standards but reasonable that it put the brakes on for further study. Fully adopting Common Core would have put us the fast track to taking our testing obsession to a whole new level.