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Friday, December 06, 2013

Ind. Gov't. - More on "Four Hoosiers filed suit Wednesday over an alleged Open Door violation by the Indiana State Board of Education"

Following up on the story yesterday by its reporter, Niki Kelly, the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette today has a long editorial, headed "Suing for clarity on education." Some quotes:

Lawsuits targeting publicly financed agencies are never welcome, but Hoosiers need the legal analysis demanded by four public education advocates. In challenging actions taken by the State Board of Education, their suit will clarify the authority of public boards and commissions to operate outside public view.

The Indiana Public Access Counselor could have settled the question in his ruling on the open meetings law complaint filed by Julie Hollingsworth, a member of the Fort Wayne Community Schools board, and three other public school advocates. But Luke Britt, appointed by Gov. Mike Pence, took a pass on issuing a clear message on the law. He opted instead to recommend that the General Assembly clarify the law.

The governor and his education administration surely would prefer that the law’s fate rest with the GOP-controlled legislature, but Hoosiers deserve a ruling free of partisanship.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz, a Democrat, earlier filed a lawsuit alleging the State Board of Education’s actions in “meeting” by email were illegal. Her lawsuit was dismissed not because it lacked merit but because the judge ruled she did not have authority to file suit without Republican Attorney General Greg Zoeller’s representation, or his permission to retain other attorneys. The same restrictions don’t apply to Hollingsworth and the three other plaintiffs, Bloomington parent Cathy Fuentes-Rohwer and former school superintendents Ed Eiler and Tony Lux.

While Zoeller has championed other public-access issues and occasionally avoided partisan battles, his unwillingness to resolve the questions involved contributes to the confusion and uncertainty regarding school policy.

Zoeller’s and Britt’s refusal to step up for open government leaves a gaping hole that can be closed only with a judicial ruling.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on December 6, 2013 11:12 AM
Posted to Indiana Government