Lebanon Reporter

State News

October 23, 2013

Ritz sues over shift in school grade calculation

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana schools chief Glenda Ritz says the State Board of Education violated state law by secretly drafting a letter to top lawmakers asking them to have legislative analysts calculate A-F grades for schools instead of her department.

A lawsuit filed Tuesday alleges that 10 members of the board violated the Open Door Law last week when they asked Senate President Pro Tempore David Long and House Speaker Brian Bosma to have the Legislative Services Agency calculate the grades for 2012-2013. Both signed off on the request Friday.

The release of the grades has been delayed amid an overhaul of the formula, which figured prominently in a grade-changing scandal involving former state schools chief Tony Bennett.

Bennett resigned as Florida’s schools chief in August after The Associated Press reported he had overhauled Indiana’s grading formula after a charter school founded by a top Republican donor received a low grade. That school, which Bennett routinely cited as a top-performer, received an A under the revised formula. Other schools also saw improvements.

The lawsuit also illustrates growing tensions between Republicans and Ritz, the lone Democrat holding a statewide office in Indiana.

Since Ritz defeated Bennett last November, lawmakers have considered diluting her power, a Bennett ally on the board has taken control of long-term planning for the group and Gov. Mike Pence created a second education agency charged with shaping education policy along with job-training initiatives.

Ritz chairs the State Board of Education, but all its members were appointed by Pence or former Gov. Mitch Daniels.

Democratic leaders in the House and Senate blasted the state board’s move in a statement Tuesday.

“Instead of working with the department, the Pence-appointed Board of Education has prodded Republican legislative leadership to subvert the process, and in doing so, unashamedly trampled state law and politicized the traditionally non-partisan Legislative Services Agency,” Sen. Tim Lanane and Rep. Scott Pelath said.

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