Ritz move an ‘atrocity to democracy’
State Reps. Rhonda Rhoads, R-Corydon, and Steve Davisson, R-Salem, and District 47 Sen. Erin Houchin, also a Republican, met Saturday morning with constituents at the annual Third House legislative update in Corydon.
Not surprisingly, one of the main discussion points in the question-and-answer portion of the event centered on State Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz and the legislature’s plan to remove her from her position as chairman of the State Board of Education.
Chris Allen, ITE teacher at North Harrison Middle School, thanked the trio of legislators for the increase in funding for schools and for shortening the ISTEP test before saying he strongly disagreed with Gov. Mike Pence and the Republican Party for attempting to remove Ritz from her post as board chair.
‘It’s a complete atrocity to democracy,’ Allen said. ‘Something needs to be said. When I voted for her, I expected four years, at least.’
Rhoads said Ritz is not being removed as Superintendent of Public Instruction, just as chair of the board of education.
She said it’s the legislature’s job, and the state board of education’s job, to make policy regarding education, and it’s Ritz’s job (or whoever is superintendent of public instruction) to implement that policy.
Rhoads said Ritz has withheld information from certain board members, walked out of meetings and filed a ‘frivolous’ lawsuit only for political gain.
‘If you’re going to be a leader, act like a leader,’ said Rhoads, who called Ritz’s actions during a board meeting (when she walked out of the meeting) appalling.
‘We have to work together whether we like each other or not,’ Rhoads said.
Rhoads also said the Democrats have wanted to make this change in the past.
Allen said Ritz may have her faults, but it all started with Pence, the day after Ritz was elected.
‘It’s frustrating,’ he said. ‘Too many kids are being affected.’
Houchin said there’s plenty of blame to go around for the dysfunction of the board of education and something had to be done to fix it. She said Senate Bill 1, which takes four appointments to the board away from the governor and calls for the board to elect its chair, is a bipartisan answer.
‘It’s a more balanced approach,’ Houchin said.
Houchin said she does not support removing Ritz as state superintendent, nor does she want the position to become appointed instead of elected.
She said the plan is the General Assembly’s answer to the dysfunction with the board of education.
‘We can’t let it continue to fester,’ Houchin said.
Drawing applause from the audience, Davisson said he did not vote for the bill that removed Ritz as chair of the board because it was in the middle of her term. The chairmanship was a part of her responsibility when she was elected, he said.
‘I would have voted for it at the end of her term,’ he said.
Another measure passed by the House of Representatives that drew the ire of a few audience members was the repeal of the state’s Common Construction Wage.
Both Rhoads and Davisson said they supported the repeal because it will help lower costs of taxpayer-funded projects.
Bob Faulkenburg stood up and asked the legislators if they have read and understand the Davis-Bacon Act of 1931. He then said he didn’t believe Rhoads stood for the taxpayer and was very disappointed in Rhoads and Davisson.
Supporters say the repeal will save 10 to 20 percent on public-works projects, while those on the other side say it will hurt working families by reducing wages.
The moderator for the event, which, for the first time took place at the Government Center in south Corydon, was Gary Geswein. It was hosted by Farm Bureau of Harrison County and the Chamber of Commerce of Harrison County.