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Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Ind. Gov't. - "Key lawmaker says Glenda Ritz should serve full term" and a constitutional sidebar

Per this story yesterday in the Indianapolis Star, reported by Mary Beth Schneider:

A key Republican lawmaker said today he will not support making the superintendent of public instruction an appointed position before the next election.

Sen. Dennis Kruse, the Auburn Republican who is chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said that if a change is made, it should not happen until the four-year term of newly elected Democrat Glenda Ritz expires after the 2016 election.

"They won't get my vote unless they wait," Kruse said. "I would hope that a majority of the legislature would wait until after the term is over. I don't think it's right, at all, to end her term before the end of the four years."

Ritz stunned Republicans by defeating GOP incumbent Tony Bennett in the Nov. 6 general election. That win, driven by grass-roots support from teachers, prompted renewed talk in the Statehouse of letting the governor, rather than voters, pick the top education official in Indiana.

Today, Kruse -- who was to meet today with Ritz -- said he wouldn't be surprised if legislation is introduced for the session that begins in January, but that if it is "definitely it has to not take effect until after Glenda Ritz's term is over, so it would be the next election."

Kruse said he is generally an "election person." * * *

Nate Schnellenberger, president of the Indiana State Teachers Association which had strongly backed Ritz’s election, said ISTA believes the superintendent of public instruction should remain an elected position “so that people are the ultimate voice in what kind of policies are put forth by the department of education.”

If the legislature attempts to change it now to an appointed position — especially if it took effect before Ritz’s four year term is up -- “it’s kind of like, well, they got her in there, how can we get her out? We’ll unelect her.’ ” he said.

ILB: The Superintendent of Public Instruction is a constitutional office. The current language reads:
Art. 8. Education Section 8. There shall be a State Superintendent of Public Instruction, whose method of selection, tenure, duties and compensation shall be prescribed by law.
(History: As Amended November 7, 1972.)
What did the Constitution provide before the 1972 amendment? Here is the language which was in effect from 1851 to 1972:
Section 8. The General Assembly shall provide for the election, by the voters of the State, of a State Superintendent of Public Instruction; who shall hold his office for two years, and whose duties and compensation shall be prescribed by law.
What was the intent of the drafters? Although legislative history is not used in Indiana to determine the intention of the General Assembly in passing a law, the same is not the case with the intention of the drafters of the Indiana Constitution. The Debates and Journals of the Constitutional Convention of 1850 are referenced frequently in decisions of the Indiana Supreme Court.

But what of later amendments to the original document? Often, little history exists. In the case of the changes to Art. 8, Sec. 8, however, the ILB can provide some of that history.

Attached are the relevant pages of the 1969 Constitutional Revision Commission, which I staffed. The Commission recommended that Art. 8, Sec. 8 be amended. Here, beginning on p. 29:

The Need for Amendment

Of the seven state-wide elected officials in the Executive and Administrative branch of government, six are provided for in the Constitution. The seventh, the office of the Attorney General, is statutory.

The present Constitution provides that the Governor and Lieutenant Governor shall be elected for four-year terms. Statute provides that the Attorney General shall serve for four years also.

The Constitution provides that the remaining officials, the Secretary of State, Auditor, Treasurer, and Superintendent of Public Instruction, shall be elected for two year terms. However, the 1967 session of the General Assembly approved a resolution to amend the Constitution to lengthen the terms of the Secretary, Auditor and Treasurer to four years. Should this proposal be· approved by the 1969 session and additionally approved by a referendum of the people, the Superintendent would be the only such state officeholder elected for just two years at a time.

The Commission has endorsed the pending proposal to lengthen the terms of the three above-mentioned offices to four years (see p. 98). The Commission believes that the term of the Superintendent of Public Instruction might well be lengthened also.

The Commission recommends, therefore, that the General Assembly should have the authority to prescribe, by statute, the term of the office of the Superintendent. The following points may be made in this regard: (1) the General Assembly currently possesses the authority to prescribe the length of the term of office of the Attorney General; (2) the General Assembly, under the present Constitution, already has the power to define the duties and compensation of the Superintendent of Public Instruction; (3) granting constitutional authority to the General Assembly to prescribe the tenure and method of selection of the Superintendent would not affect a current officeholder.

The Commission further recommends that the General Assembly should have the authority to provide by law for the method of selection of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. Presently, he is elected. The office would remain elective under the proposed amendment unless and until the legislature should decide otherwise.

There are several reasons why the General Assembly might wish to provide for a method of selection of the Superintendent of Public Instruction other than by statewide election.

The first of these is that the office involves specialized functions and knowledge and is best filled by a person of experience and ability in the areas of education and administration. A person fitting this definition does not always choose to enter the political arena and may not be widely known, except to persons in the educational field. The argument has been advanced, therefore, that a person of the required special expertise could best be found by, for instance, a state-wide elected board of education. The General Assembly could establish such a board by law, provide for its duties, the method of its election, and provide that it should nominate a person qualified to hold the office of head of the state's educational system.

Another argument is based upon the belief of many persons experienced in state government that the executive and administrative branch should not consist of many separately elected officials, each responsible only to the electorate and occasionally working at cross-purposes. Under this theory, the office of Superintendent of Public Instruction should be a cabinet-type position, filled by an expert appointed by the Governor to serve during the term of the Governor and for whose decisions the Governor himself would be responsible. Such a system, it is argued, would result in a better integration of the many and varied educational systems in the state.

Effect of the Proposed Amendment

The effect of the Commission's proposed amendment to Article 8, section 8, would be to grant to the General Assembly the authority, should it choose to exercise it, to change the term of office and/or the method of selection of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Should the General Assembly choose to exercise the authority to change the length of the term of office of the Superintendent, it is most likely that the term would be lengthened to four years. Such a lengthening of term seems most advisable to the members of the Commission.

Should the General Assembly choose to change the method of selection of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, it seems likely that the change would be from state-wide election to appointment, either by an elected state board of education created by the General Assembly, or by the Governor. Such a change would serve to insure that the head of our State's educational system would be a person qualified in the areas of education and administration.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on December 5, 2012 09:36 AM
Posted to Indiana Government