Ritz Files Lawsuit Against Board of Education

The battle between Indiana State Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz and the state Board of Education is now heading to court.

Yesterday morning, Ritz filed a lawsuit against the state Board of Education accusing board members of violating the Open Door Law. The suit will be known as Ritz vs Elsener et al and was filed in Marion County Circuit Court.

In the lawsuit, Ritz alleges that ten members of the Board of Education violated the Open Door Law when they secretly drafted (or authorized the drafting of) a letter that was sent to Senate President Pro Tem David Long and House Speaker Brian Bosma. The letter is dated October 16th according to the lawsuit. Both Long and Bosma are Republican while Ritz is a Democrat.

The lawsuit states further that the letter requests that Senator Long and Speaker Bosma appoint the state’s Legislative Services Agency to perform the calculations that determine A-F grades for Indiana schools for 2012-2013. Ritz alleges that no public notice was given for a meeting that allowed this action to occur and she was not made aware of the action until after it was taken, though Ritz serves as the Chair of the State Board of Education.

The lawsuit calls for preventing the State Board of Education from continuing to violate the Open Door Law along with declaratory relief. In a statement, Ritz says she took an oath to uphold Indiana laws when she was sworn into office and she was disappointed to find out that other members of the board did not comply with other requirements of the law. She says though she respects the individual expertise and commitment of members of the board, she feels that the board members went too far. Ritz further stated that she does not take communicating openly with the board or the public lightly because her obligations as the elected state head of education require it.

The grading process as a whole has been delayed by ISTEP testing interruptions that took place back in the spring. Test scores are factored as a primary basis for accountability rankings.

Indiana Department of Education officials say they are using in-house counsel to avoid passing additional costs to the state.