A window to the future may be unfolding in Indiana.
By making appearances around the country and abroad, and speeches on foreign policy and topics only periphally related to Indiana, Gov. Mike Pence seems to be seriously exploring a run for president in 2016. One festering situation in the Hoosier State makes a potential Pence presidency a troubling prospect.
The absurdly dysfunctional relationship between the state Board of Education members and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz mirrors that of Congress. The public approval rating for Congress hit a record low this month, with just 7 percent of Americans expressing solid confidence in their federal lawmakers. Why? Congress’ extreme factions adamantly refuse to work with political rivals and, thus, are on course to become the least productive Congress in American history, and all but the most politically strident people are weary of their ideological gamesmanship.
Pence and his fellow Republicans in Hoosier state government have few opponents with which to contend. They’ve won the past three governor races and hold super-majorities in the Indiana House and Senate. And the only Democrat elected to statewide office, Ritz, was a long-time Republican until the former teacher decided in 2012 to challenge Tony Bennett, a then-star of the GOP’s education reform movement.
That’s it. That’s the extent of their opposition.
Yet, from the night of her election victory Nov. 6, 2012, through last week, Ritz has seen her basic authority to perform her job disregarded, challenged and circumvented by the Board of Education members (all appointed by Pence and his predecessor, Mitch Daniels), the Republican-dominated Legislature and the governor’s team. Their tactics include Pence’s creation of a separate education agency — the Center for Education and Career Innovation, in conflict with the Indiana Department of Education, which Ritz oversees; legislative threats to make the superintendent an appointed position; and persistent efforts by Indiana State Board of Education members to override her.