Pence undoes Daniels' education oversight order during first day in office

Pence signs several executive orders

INDIANAPOLIS - Two hours after Room 206B officially became his Statehouse office, Gov. Mike Pence began wielding his new authority.

He fulfilled several campaign pledges through a set of executive orders he signed early Monday afternoon.

In addition to signing the orders, Pence rescinded one.

It was a move that shifted an education board’s oversight away from new State Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz’s office.

"We really, really believe that the historic framework and the accountability directly to the governor is in the best interest of taxpayers and all parties concerned," Pence told RTV6, in reference to the move.

Now-former Gov. Mitch Daniels in 2011 had moved the Indiana Education Employment Relations Board under an Indiana Department of Education that was then led by Republican Tony Bennett.

The move came shortly after Daniels signed into law a measure that limited teachers’ collective bargaining rights to wages and benefits – ending their influence over education policies and hiring and firing practices.

His executive order cited the Department of Education’s “extensive legal, regulatory and policy staff available to directly support” the board and its “new legal and fiscal responsibilities related to the proper implementation of collective bargaining reform.”

In November, though, Bennett was ousted by Ritz, a Democrat whose campaign was fueled with teachers’ displeasure over that new law and others.

The board’s chairman, Patrick Mapes – who had been a top Bennett aide, serving as assistant superintendent – asked Pence to rescind the Daniels executive order and move its oversight back to the governor’s office, said Pence spokeswoman Christy Denault.

Ritz said she was “upset” over Daniels’ executive order in the first place and had no problem with Pence’s move.

“I think it should operate as a separate entity and not be swayed by anybody in the Department of Education,” she said. “I thought it was a conflict of interest.”

After signing the orders, Pence had a meeting with legislative leaders of both parties to discuss his agenda for the 2013 session.

"We've reached out to the Republican and Democrat leadership of the General Assembly, and today's meeting is really going to be all about just opening a dialogue and listening," Pence told RTV6.

Legislative leaders of both parties said Monday was a day for bipartisanship. They said they didn't even discuss Pence's proposed 10 percent income tax reduction.

"Today was not a day to get into policy," said Rep. Scott Pelath, D-minority leader. "Today was a day to sort of set the right tone that we all have important jobs for Indiana. Sometimes those jobs are to disagree."

Senate Leader David Long said it was nice state leaders could talk like that.

"We had a nice conversation with the governor," Long said. "But we all agree that, with all the instability out in Washington, it's nice that we can at least have a moment like this, which doesn't happen out there."

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