Ritz, opponents need to declare cease fire
No challenges facing this state are more essential to confront and conquer than to improve student achievement, to provide access for all students to high-quality schools and to dramatically increase the education level of Indiana’s workforce.
Yet, for months the state leaders responsible for helping achieve those goals have been locked in a power struggle that’s become increasingly personal and partisan. It’s been deeply frustrating to watch as the fighting has escalated to the point of becoming a severe distraction from the critical work of improving our state’s schools.
The dysfunction sank to new depths this past week. First, Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz fired off a strongly worded letter to The Star and other media outlets accusing Gov. Mike Pence of attempting a hostile takeover of the Department of Education. Pence responded with his own letter to the media defending his actions. And Ritz unilaterally ended and walked out of a State Department of Education meeting because she objected to a motion introduced by a board member.
After Wednesday’s meltdown, both sides have spent the past few days criticizing their opponents and defending their own actions.
That approach — blaming and defending — will do nothing to help resolve this dispute. Worse, it will continue to waste time and energy on a sideshow that distracts from the need to improve our education system.
On Friday, Pence sent a letter to Ritz and the board urging them to seek meditation from a neutral party. That’s a reasonable idea in searching for a way forward. Unfortunately, Ritz rejected the proposal, and took the opportunity to take another shot at Pence.
To be sure, there are legitimate policy differences at play here. But any reasoned discussions about those differences have been overwhelmed by the political battle on display in recent days and weeks.