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Column: Look in mirror to place blame, Ritz


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When Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz complains that the governor and anyone else who believes in high academic standards, accountability and competence are trying to undermine her authority, all I can think of is the old joke about the two kids who murdered their parents and then asked the judge to go easy on them because they were orphans.

In other words, if Ritz wants to blame anyone for her problems, then she should go get a mirror.

Allow me to elaborate.

Ritz pens a letter to the state’s largest newspaper saying the governor and the Center for Education and Career Innovation are misrepresenting her positions and undermining her authority. This followed her announcement at the last State Board of Education meeting of a $3.3 million “settlement” reached with CTB/McGraw-Hill over last year’s ISTEP test glitches. Indiana won’t see any cash for its trouble, but it will get credit and “in kind” services.

The settlement was reached in October, but the board didn’t find out about it until last week. To make matters worse, Ritz legally cannot enter into any settlement unless the attorney general signs off on it, and that office hasn’t because it’s still under review.

So she announced a settlement that legally does not exist and continued to alienate the state board by keeping them in the dark about it.

But, wait, there’s more.

Remember that No Child Left Behind waiver that Indiana is in jeopardy of losing that means schools would lose control of nearly a quarter of a billion dollars in funding? Sure you do.

Well, last May Ritz’s office was told the state could lose its waiver because it failed to do a number of things, such as make sure low-performing schools were making changes to raise test scores, implement new standards for teacher and principal evaluations in local schools and develop new turnaround strategies for low-performing schools.

So what did they do? Well, not only did Ritz wait until the last minute to turn in the paperwork to the federal government, but apparently it was so bad and error-ridden that the governor’s office had to submit a supplemental document. It was like doing a group project that was so horrible you had to turn in your own work, otherwise you’d get a failing grade.

But none of this should surprise anyone.

Remember, Ritz was on the board of the Indiana State Teachers Association when it got busted for engaging in a “Ponzi-like” scheme where they sold health insurance plans to teachers and school districts and then used the proceeds to fund their disability programs while misleading schools and educators about how much they had in their accounts.

The teacher’s association, along with the National Education Association settled with the Secretary of State’s office for $14 million. And Ritz still never has addressed questions of what did she know about the scheme and when did she know it?

Like I stated earlier, when it comes to doing her job, Ritz drops the ball. Now in all due fairness, her staff can

apparently do a great job of data mining old emails by former Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett.

But when it came to more matters of substance, such as providing guidelines for new rules for how educators become licensed and how they renew their licenses, crafting rules for schools who take vouchers regarding special education students and coming up with formulas regarding teacher performance-based pay, they tend to fall a little short.

So instead of whining about how everyone is trying to undermine her authority, Ritz should do the job she was elected to do. Her supporters like to tell us that she got more votes than Gov. Mike Pence, but she sure doesn’t act like it.

Instead of rolling up her sleeves and getting to work, she is busy blaming everyone else for inability to get things done. If she wants to find the person truly responsible for her problems she should get a mirror, although she may not like what she sees.

Abdul Hakim-Shabazz is an attorney and the editor and publisher of IndyPoltics.Org. He is also a frequent contributor to numerous Indiana media outlets. He can be reached at abdul@indypolitics.org.

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