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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Ind. Gov't. - "New state education agency mired in controversy"

Dan Carden of the NWI Times reported yesterday on the the "Center for Education and Career Innovation, a new state agency, was established by Republican Gov. Mike Pence to integrate education and workforce training in Indiana by uniting various school and employment boards and agencies under a single umbrella." More:

The new agency has been directed to coordinate its efforts with the Indiana Department of Education, Commission for Higher Education, Department of Workforce Development and the Indiana Charter School Board -- as well as industry and other private education partners -- "so we can more effectively serve students and adult workers," Pence said.

CECI is funded by $5.8 million that was appropriated to the agencies it oversees and is jointly led by Claire Fiddian-Green, Pence's special assistant for education innovation, and Jaclyn Dowd, Pence's special assistant for career innovation.

It is also the spark at the center of a firestorm that is tearing apart education decision-making at the state level.

Glenda Ritz, the Democratic state superintendent of public instruction, contends Pence created CECI to usurp her authority as state schools chief and lay the groundwork for the governor to take full control of Indiana education, likely under an appointed superintendent.

The conflict between Ritz and CECI has been most pronounced at State Board of Education meetings, where the Republican-appointed board has insisted on consulting CECI staff to verify nearly every claim made by employees of Ritz's Department of Education.

On multiple occasions this has led to Ritz's attorney and the board's CECI attorney standing side by side at the speaker's podium contradicting each other on various points of education law. * * *

Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, has questioned why Pence, who claims to be a "small government" conservative, would create a new layer of state bureaucracy to oversee other new other agencies Pence also has created during his 11 months in office.

House Democratic Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, wonders about the high salaries paid to CECI officials.

Fiddian-Green is paid $120,000 a year. That's nearly $9,000 more than Pence makes and $30,000 more than Ritz's salary. Dowd earns $110,000.

Altogether, six of the 16 CECI staffers earn more than $100,000 a year, according to the state auditor.

ILB: It is interesting to think that the Governor has the power as chief executive, without specific statutory authority, to set up an agency like this to "coordinate" the efforts of a separately elected state official. One wonders if the governor could also, on his own, set up an agency to oversee and coordinate the work of another separately elected state official, the attorney general. Both the Superintendent and the AG are elected directly by the citizens of Indiana, but unlike the state auditor, treasurer, and secretary of state, their method of selection is set by statute, not by the constitution.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on November 26, 2013 09:13 AM
Posted to Indiana Government