So too is the state’s school voucher program, which Ritz fought as a plaintiff in a failed lawsuit before she was elected. In the session that ended in April, lawmakers voted to expand the voucher program to include more children.
Still, Ritz sees progress: Some Republicans leaders, especially those in the Senate, seemed willing to engage with her. Senate Education Chairman Dennis Kruse, a key architect of the education overhaul she opposes, killed talk of making her post an appointed rather than elected office. He also turned an effort to gut her authority as chair of the State Board of Education.
Senate Appropriations Chairman Luke Kenley of Noblesville worked to change the A-to-F metrics, after hearing Ritz’s concerns. The changes didn't get made, but he helped clear the way for those metrics to be reviewed this summer.
“She was elected to a very important position. It's important for us to work with her,” said Kenley, adding that he appreciates her efforts. “There is a lot of work to be done when it comes to improving education. We all need to grab a shovel and dig in.”
Much of the education overhaul under Bennett is locked into law, so can’t be undone by Ritz. But she can advocate for changes that fall within law. For example, she’s started a series of “study sessions” with the State Board of Education to see if there is a better way to assess the reading abilities of early grade students so they don’t end up failing the critical IREAD-3 test.
She’s also not ready to concede that the laws are that tightly locked into place.
“Laws are always meant to be changed,” Ritz said. “They get changed every session. Just because something is in law, doesn't mean it can't be changed.”