Supporters of Glenda Ritz will be holding a rally this Friday in South Bend to show their support for the embattled Indiana State Superintendent.
Ritz, the only Democrat currently elected to statewide office in Indiana, is the target of two bills in the Republican-dominated state legislature. The Indiana Senate passed its version of the bill on Tuesday in a 33-17 vote.
Republicans are seeking to strip Ritz of her authority as the chairperson of the State Board of Education, citing disputes in policy between the governor-appointed Board of Education and the elected State Superintendent. Governor Mike Pence has expressed support for the effort.
The South Bend rally is just the latest protest in the state. As the Associated Press reports:
Teachers, parents and students gathered at the Indiana Statehouse Monday in support of Democratic state schools Superintendent Glenda Ritz, who could lose control of the State Board of Education under bills advancing through the Republican-dominated General Assembly.
Hundreds of people held signs reading “Stop the power grab” and “Stop the assault on public education #Stand4PublicEd” at the event organized by the Indiana Coalition for Public Education. As the crowd began chanting, “We stand with Ritz,” the superintendent took the podium in a surprise appearance to say, “And I stand with you.”
The rally comes amid efforts to remove Ritz as chairman of the State Board of Education. Proposals in both the state House and Senate would allow Republican Gov. Mike Pence’s appointed board members to elect their own chairman, most likely ousting Ritz from the job. Until now, Indiana law automatically gave responsibility to the superintendent of public instruction.
Ritz was elected in 2012 with the support of 1.3 million Hoosiers, equivalent to nearly 53 percent of the vote. Ritz received both a higher number of votes and a higher percentage of the vote than Mike Pence did in his first bid for governor.
She defeated incumbent Tony Bennett, who oversaw a number of controversial reforms including a letter-based grading system for schools, the largest voucher program in the country, and the adoption of Common Core.
Bennett was the focus of an ethics probe after leaving office. Bennett was forced to pay a fine after it was found that he had used state resources to coordinate campaign events. Bennett was also accused of altering the state’s school evaluation formula to benefit a charter school whose founder was a major Republican donor.
The South Bend rally is aimed at drawing attention to what Democrats are calling an “attack” on voters. The rally is being sponsored by the local party.
“The actions by Governor Pence and Indiana Republicans are an attack on our entire electoral system and a slap in the face to every voter in Indiana,” says St. Joseph County Democratic Party Chairman Jason Critchlow. “Glenda Ritz was elected by the people and for the people, yet Republicans in Indianapolis refuse to allow her to do her job. It’s a time for action.”
The rally will be held at John Adams High School at 4 pm on Friday, February 20.