Monday’s announcement of a $14 million settlement between the Indiana State Teachers Association (ISTA), the National Education Association (NEA) and the Secretary of State’s Office is raising some questions that I think the current Superintendent of Public Instruction, Glenda Ritz, needs to answer and do it soon.
ISTA and the NEA were accused of engaging in a “Ponzi-like” scheme where they would sell health insurance plans to teachers and school districts and then use the proceeds to fund its disability program while misleading schools and educators about how much they had in their accounts.
Ritz served on the Board of ISTA during the time as well as being the head of the Washington Township Educators Union in Indianapolis. In those capacities as a Board member and union head, Ritz would have had a fiduciary duty to look out for the best interests of her members. Which in turns raises several questions…
- Did Ritz have any knowledge that ISTA and the NEA were engaging in what the Secretary of State’s office called a “Ponzi-like” scheme?
- If so, when did Ritz first become aware of the scheme and what was her reaction?
- Was she involved in any active or passing selling/promoting of the ISTA-NEA health insurance plan to her bargaining unit in Washington Township schools?
- Did Ritz herself purchase any of the health insurance plan that that was pushed by ISTA?
- Once the scheme was discovered, did she speak out against it, either as an ISTA Board member or Union President?
- Will Ritz demand that ISTA and the NEA fully refund all teachers and school districts for the original $28 million that was lost in the scheme, as opposed to the $14 million that both sides have initially agreed to settle?
- Are there any other ticking time bombs out there regarding ISTA that teachers, school districts and the taxpayers should know?
- Will Ritz make public any and all correspondence (memos, emails, etc), electronic and otherwise, regarding the ISTA-NEA alleged “Ponzi-scheme”?
- Does Ritz think teachers and the public can trust ISTA and the NEA?
- Will the answers to any of these questions ever see the light of day?
Of course critics will try to dismiss these questions as the rantings and sour grapes of a Tony Bennett supporter, but that does not change the fact that millions of dollars were funneled away from school districts and teachers and used in a scheme that at best was irresponsible and worst, securities fraud.
The current Superintendent of Public Instruction has a responsibility to disclose to the public and her fellow teachers what she knew and when she became aware of it.
It is the least she can do. Hopefully, she will do it soon.