Bill To Appoint, Not Elect, Top Education Official Moves Forward

Feb 6, 2017


A bill that would remove Indiana’s top education official as an elected position is progressing through the Statehouse. The bill, authored by Sen. Jim Buck (R-Kokomo) would allow the governor to appoint the superintendent of public instruction starting in 2021.

It passed out of committee Monday on a 5-to-3 vote.

“Ultimately it’s the governor that’s responsible for education,” Buck says. “This just puts all of that responsibility on him or her.”

Indiana is one of 13 states to elect its top education official. Proponents say this bill could remove many of the politics that have long plagued Indiana education.

During former-Gov. Mike Pence’s term, the republican governor’s office and the department of education were often at a head. Then-superintendent Glenda Ritz was the only democrat in a statewide elected position.

The political disagreements between the two offices boiled over into Pence restructuring the state board of education to contain more political appointments. The state board of education creates education policy that the department of education is in charge of implementing.

The Indiana Chamber of Commerce testified to the committee in support of the bill. They say it would allow the governor and the department of education to stay on the same page.

And that, to others, keeps things political.

“If one party controls every decision, that’s not taking the politics out,” says John O’Neill, with the Indiana State Teachers Association.

O’Neill says it’s bad public policy to take a decision out of hand of voters and give more power to the governor.

“I don’t think ramming through policies just because everyone’s agreeing is good for the state,” O’Neil says.