Power wins.

Unless some virtuous political maverick at the top levels of Indiana government appears this winter, the dynasty running Hoosier government will finally complete its two-year-long crusade to wither its last obstacle to full dominance. Gov. Mike Pence announced the check-mate move Thursday as he laid out his goals for the upcoming session of the General Assembly.

The governor wants legislators to give the Indiana State Board of Education members the power to pick their own chairperson. Under existing Indiana law, the state superintendent of public instruction automatically serves as the board’s chairperson. In other words, the voters decide who chairs the Board of Education. In 2012, they emphatically chose Glenda Ritz, a school-teacher Democrat, as their state superintendent over Republican school-reform star Tony Bennett. The defeat galled Republicans. They never accepted the people’s choice.

So, with every tool possible, they’ve relentlessly circumvented Ritz, usurping the authority attached to her job. Republican legislators suddenly embraced an idea tossed around for decades — making the superintendent a governor-appointed position, rather than an elected one. With the GOP holding super majorities in the state Senate and House, the only thing preventing it from following through with that tactic was its blatantly obvious political motivation.

Pence’s proposal injects a new twist. Instead of ousting Ritz, the change drains a huge amount of her remaining power. The other 10 members of the Board of Education — all appointed by Republican governors — would select their chairperson to set the agenda for education policy in Indiana. Ritz would be reduced to just another member, because the others would certainly not choose her.

Disappointingly, the Republican leaders of the Legislature endorsed Pence’s plan last week. House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President Pro Tem David Long expressed their frustration with the embarrassing dysfunction between the governor’s board and Ritz, calling it a “sideshow” and framing Pence’s proposal as a solution. Ritz is not the problem. The problem is the power party’s refusal to tolerate a rejection of their ballyhooed education reforms by the same voters who simultaneously approved of the Republicans’ efforts in other aspects of governing.

The backing of Bosma and Long virtually guarantees Pence’s proposal to deflate Ritz’s role will become a reality. The Republicans control both chambers of the Legislature with super majorities. The move will just as likely rekindle clashes between teachers, public school backers, reformists, Republicans and Democrats.

The Republicans can claim the high road, thanks to Pence’s surprising decision to dismantle his controversial Center for Education and Career Innovation, an agency he created that duplicates the responsibilities of the state Department of Education, which Ritz oversees. As he announced the upcoming shutdown of the CECI, Pence called that move a “first step” toward cooperation in education leadership. On its own, that change would be just that and immensely admirable.

Moments later, though, the governor added his idea to have his State Board appointees pick their chairperson. Shortly thereafter, Bosma and Long gave it their thumbs-up. Voices of objection cannot, alone, stop that domino effect. Unless an influential Republican steps up to defend an outmanned opponent, political power will prevail.

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