Sen. Zay has introduced SB 143 which would alter the composition of the State Board of Education. Currently, it is composed of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, eight members appointed by the governor, one appointed by the President pro tempore of the Senate, and one appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Three of the Governor appointees have to be at least nominally from another party. With the elected Superintendent of Public Instruction position being replaced by the Governor-appointed Secretary of Education position beginning in January 2021, that’s a lot of marbles in one basket.
SB 143 would give the Governor two appointees (plus the Secretary of Education). The Speaker of the House would get three, the President pro tempore would get three, and the minority leaders of the House and Senate would each get one. Under current law, six of the Governor’s eight appointees are required to have “professional experience in the field of education.” Under SB 143, six of the appointees would still be required to have professional experience in the field of education but the legislation does not specify how that requirement is to be coordinated among the appointing authorities. Also, the meaning “professional experience in the field of education” has been tweaked. The current definition says that means teacher, principal, superintendent, or assistant superintendent. The new law would add “an executive in the field of education.” I don’t known what that’s supposed to mean, but to my jaded eyes that screams “testing company executive” or “owner of a charter school management company.”
Diversifying the appointing authority for the State Board of Education makes sense. I don’t have strong feelings at the moment as to what might constitute the proper balance. As citizens, we should all be aware that the State has pretty thoroughly taken over education in Indiana and, with the Superintendent of Public Instruction set to no longer be an independently elected position, the power to set education policy will sit pretty firmly in the Governor’s office. Education represents something like 50% of the State’s budget. I don’t think it’s overstepping to suggest that a citizen’s vote for Governor or the General Assembly should mostly rise and fall on education policy.