Fred Haigh is the Democratic candidate for Indiana's 84th District. He wrote this article for The Journal Gazette.

By Fred Haigh 

Elections in Indiana are critically important and represent the most fundamental decision-making authority of a representative government. Elections choose our leadership and guide our state’s future. They rely on a large percentage of wise and worthy citizens to show up on Election Day and exercise their right to vote. We all learned that lesson back in our middle school government class. At least most of us did.

It seems our governor was playing hooky that day. Despite the fact that citizens elected Glenda Ritz our superintendent of public instruction, Gov. Mike Pence has effectively hijacked the public’s wishes and usurped Ritz’s authority to direct public education in our state.

As Ritz stated recently: “Gov. Pence used an executive order to create CECI (Center for Education and Career Innovation). It was created without any consultation or conversation with the Department of Education and was created without legislative action or public input.”

This is not what our citizens voted for, and this overstepped authority is not what our Department of Education needs.

Indiana did not elect Pence to undermine Ritz, or to continue the policies of Tony Bennett, or to run the Indiana Department of Education. Even though Ritz was outspent five to one by her opponent, more than 1.3 million Hoosiers voted to send Ritz to the Statehouse to re-establish fairness and ethics in our state’s education system.

Yet those 1.3 million voices must have fallen on deaf ears in Indianapolis.

Rather than listen to the public, our governor, for the first time in my memory, used an executive order and unilaterally appointed a partisan and self-serving agency whose main purpose has been to obstruct the will of the superintendent of public instruction.

This is unethical and is wrong for our state, our schools and our children.

The constitution of the State of Indiana clearly states in Article 8, Section 8 that “there shall be a State Superintendent of Public Instruction, whose method of selection, tenure, duties and compensation shall be prescribed by law.” Certainly the authors of the Indiana Constitution did not intend for this to be interpreted “as prescribed by the Governor.”

Pence’s obvious attempt at obstructing the bipartisan and open meeting governance of Indiana’s public education should not continue. Today’s schools are asked to address our country’s complex public issues, such as social prejudice, racial and gender inequality, disability fairness, financial disparity, bullying, linguistic challenges, cultural conflicts, parenting failures, abject poverty and career preparation.

Public schools are the greatest, and perhaps only, conduit to take on all of these issues and support our true American values. Our governor should not obfuscate the importance of that mission.

When public education is challenged, so is democracy. When people who care about public education are being ignored, so is democracy. When far-left or far-right dogmas are encouraged and when unethical behaviors are just tapped on the wrist, democracy loses. When for-profit and nonprofit organizations are intent on unduly influencing public education, they are, more than likely, eating away at our democracy.

When governors dismiss voters, they most certainly dismiss democracy.

As a lifelong educator, l strongly support strengthening our public schools and providing elected officials with the freedom and influence to do their job.

Pence should favor the potential of our Department of Education to prepare our students for the future. He should do all he can to encourage, not destroy, public education.

I ask every voter to join me this November in making sure our voices are once again heard loud and clear.

Please vote and support those candidates who support public education.