Gov. Pence, superintendent share thoughts on education policy, controversies

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INDIANAPOLIS (Dec. 11, 2014) - The battle over education policy is back in the news, as the state superintendent of public instruction unveils some of her proposals for the coming year, while also responding to some of Governor Mike Pence’s recent proposals.

Last week, the governor, announcing the elimination of the very agency he created last year- the Center for Education and Career Innvoation- an agency that some Democrats felt was set up to undermine state superintendent Glenda Ritz.

“It had become a source of friction so I thought as a first step it would be helpful if we just dissolved CECI,” said Gov. Pence in a one-on-one interview with FOX59 on Thursday.

The governor also wants the state school board members–appointed by the Republican governor–to elect their own chair instead of having the state superintendent automatically serve as board chair.

“My hope is that the combination of those two steps will lead us down the road to restoring trust, restoring harmony and allowing the state board of Ed to provide the oversight that it was designed to serve,” said Pence.

Still the superintendent says she still wants more information about the governor's latest proposals, including a performance-based bonus for teachers and flexibility waivers to reward high-performing schools.

“I have not received any information of what he suggested last week,” said Ritz. “We’ve asked for some information and I hope to get it soon.”

Ritz went before the state budget committee on Thursday, asking them to put the state board of Ed's budget back under her agency's direction, now that the governor is dissolving CECI.

“The state board of education budget was within (CECI) but it’s always been a part of the DOE, so I really feel like that budget should come back to the department of education,” said Ritz.

Ritz is also asking the committee for a 3% increase in tuition support for public schools, and for a $70 million annual increase for the state's textbook reimbursement fund to help families pay for textbooks- though some lawmakers seemed hesitant to release such a large amount of money.

“It has been a struggle always in the state of Indiana to have free textbooks,” said Ritz. “We are opening that conversation up again.”

Lawmakers will consider the department's budget requests before putting together the state budget during next year's legislative session.