Indiana Attorney General Seeks Dismissal of Ritz Edu. Board Suit

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller is seeking the dismissal of the lawsuit that the state's Democratic schools chief filed against members of the State Board of Education.
Zoeller said Thursday his office must represent Superintendent Glenda Ritz in any lawsuit and he wants an out-of-court resolution. He also said he won't take sides in the fight.

Ritz alleged in a lawsuit filed earlier this week that 10 members of the state board violated Indiana's open meetings law when they removed calculation of school grades from her Department of Education.
The board members wrote in a letter last week that Ritz was dragging her feet in compiling the school grades. But Ritz's staff have said they do not have the data yet to issue the grades.

Meanwhile, Superindendent Ritz released the following statement at a press conference Thursday afternoon.

Thank you for being here today.  As you know, this Tuesday, I filed suit against ten members of the State Board of Education individually over their violation of Indiana’s Open Doors Law.  Specifically, I believe that these members took official action outside of a public meeting, in secret, without any notice to the public, or even to myself. 

Let me be clear, the letter that the members of the Board sent to Republican Legislative Leadership asking that LSA take over A-F grading was done without public notice, approval or even public opportunity to comment.  I have always believed that fair, open and transparent decision-making is best and it is disappointing to learn that the Board took action in a different manner. 

At this time last year, A-F grades had not yet been released, even though ISTEP data was available in May of 2012.  Each year, parents can request a re-score of the applied skills portion of the ISTEP test.  Because of difficulties with ISTEP this year, there were over 55,000 re-scores requested statewide, and those have to be re-scored by hand.  The Department is expecting to receive the re-score data on November 5. 

Because Indiana has such a high-stakes testing system, one changed score can affect not just a student or school, but multiple schools.  My administration has consistently provided this needed data to schools and will continue to do so openly and as fast as possible. 

When I was sworn in to office, I took an oath to uphold the laws of the State of Indiana.  I take this oath very seriously and I was dismayed to learn that other members of the State Board have not complied with the requirements of the law.  While I respect the commitment and expertise of members of the board individually, they have collectively over-stepped their bounds. 

Since Tuesday, I have spoken with the Attorney General and he has indicated a desire to bring the parties together to seek resolution of this issue.  I want to say that I appreciate his involvement and while I welcome the opportunity to reach resolution, I believe that the Board’s action violated Indiana law and that this case is important.  In the event that out of court resolution is not possible, the courts may be the Department’s only recourse. 

Finally, since my inauguration, I have worked tirelessly to communicate openly with the Board and the public.  I did not take this action lightly, but my obligations as elected state Superintendent require it.   I look forward to continuing to work to improve education for all Indiana students in a fair, transparent and collaborative manner.