Bills that would make the school chief an appointed position rather than elected one are making progress in both the House and Senate.
The House education committee heard testimony regarding House Bill 1005 and proceeded to approve the bill 10-3 on Tuesday morning. According to the Indiana General Assembly website, the Senate elections committee approved Senate Bill 179 on Feb. 6.
HB 1005 would abolish the elected position of Indiana superintendent of public instruction in the state and replace it with a position of state secretary of education, which the governor would appoint. This measure would go in effect in 2021 according to HB 1005 and thus allow Superintendent Jennifer McCormick, who was elected to the position, to finish her first term in office.
Among those who spoke against the bill were representatives from the Indiana State Teachers Association and the Indiana Coalition for Public Education. Supporters of the bill who spoke included individuals from the Institute for Quality Education and the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.
“I trust the voters to put experienced educators in this office,” said Vic Smith, a retired educator and frequent blogger for ICPE, during testimony. “I do not trust making this an executive appointment.”
During his introduction of HB 1005 on Tuesday, bill author and House Speaker Rep. Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, pulled a small Valentine’s Day card out of his shirt pocket for the crowd to see. He said it was from McCormick. He had told her that morning he loved and respected her. This bill isn’t about her or anyone who preceded her, Bosma said. It’s not a partisan bill, either.
“This is good public policy, and now is an opportunity to do so,” said Bosma.
Bosma said Indiana is one of 13 states that continues to elect its school chief.
Smith also took issue with the fact that bill does not list any qualification requirements for the appointed secretary of education.
No teaching experience or teaching license would be required to be chosen for the job, Smith said.
The House bill also says the secretary need only be an Indiana resident for two years, Smith said. The leader of schools in the state should have extensive personal knowledge of the state’s history with education, he said.
“The state leader of schools in Indiana should be a skilled and respected educator with experience in Indiana’s schools,” Smith said.
Bosma took issue with this. As it stands currently, the state superintendent is not currently required to have a teacher’s license, he said.
The issue of education policy has been a tumultuous one in Indiana in recent years. Past Superintendent Glenda Ritz, a Democrat, and former Gov. Mike Pence, a Republican, were constantly at odds, which some testified Tuesday slowed down the process of policy change for Indiana schools.
Bosma also said the superintendent’s responsibility is not to create policy; rather, that is the legislature’s job.
Both bills now will face deliberation by the full House and Senate.