You choose, we deliver
If you are interested in this story, you might be interested in others from The Journal Gazette. Go to www.journalgazette.net/newsletter and pick the subjects you care most about. We'll deliver your customized daily news report at 3 a.m. Fort Wayne time, right to your email.

Editorials

  • Lots of smoke but little fire to reduce Indiana’s smoking habit
    State officials are appealing a $63 million reduction in Indiana’s share of tobacco master settlement payments. But even without the penalty, Indiana’s tobacco prevention and cessation efforts are sputtering.
  • State continues its struggle with tax-burden balance
    If you’re mailing a check to the Indiana Department of Revenue today, you might already have pondered the disconnect between how much you’re paying in state and local taxes and the tax-cut boasting you hear from state officials.
  • Furthermore …
    Probation system’s tragic shortcomingIndianapolis residents are reeling over the death of Nathan Trapuzzano, who was shot and killed in the parking lot of a West 16th Street business while he exercised early the morning of
Advertisement
Associated Press
Glenda Ritz celebrates Tuesday night in Indianapolis.
Editorials

A mandate for Ritz

Gov.-elect Mike Pence might want to reconsider his plan to push for more school choice. The message Indiana voters sent in electing the first Democratic state superintendent in 42 years is a clear sign they’ve had enough.

Glenda Ritz, a Marion County teacher and one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit challenging Indiana’s school voucher law, overcame a huge fundraising disadvantage to upset incumbent Tony Bennett.

In his first term, the former superintendent of Greater Clark County Schools pushed what was likely the most aggressive agenda in the nation – championing the voucher law, charter school expansion, limits on teacher collective bargaining, letter grades for schools and more.

He also pushed to take over struggling schools, this fall handing operation of several schools in Lake and Marion counties to education management companies. His efforts were eagerly embraced by the GOP-controlled legislature and Gov. Mitch Daniels, who endorsed Bennett even before his Republican predecessor, Suellen Reed, had announced she would not seek re-election.

With pushback from public school teachers across Indiana, some GOP lawmakers were calling for a slowdown on education bills by the end of the last session. Tuesday’s results are likely to ensure the pace of so-called reform bills will slow and some flawed legislation, including a law that gives charter schools the right to claim unused school buildings, is likely to get a closer look.

Bennett’s supporters are likely to blame the Indiana State Teachers Association for the loss.

But Ritz’s victory has much more to do with the grassroots efforts of classroom teachers and public education advocates across the state.

Bennett’s loss has national significance. The state superintendent promoted his legislative success across the country last year, earning awards from conservative groups.

His campaign chest of about $1.5 million included contributions from billionaires and hedge-fund managers far from Indiana.

“If Bennett loses, this is a huge defeat for the right-wing reform agenda of teacher bashing and privatization,” said Diane Ravitch, an education historian and author of “The Death and Life of the Great American School System.” “Last year, the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute honored Bennett as the ‘reformiest’ state superintendent. He has a national profile for his hard-driving agenda of charters, vouchers and high-stakes testing. A loss for Bennett means that Indiana voters are not willing to hand off public education to for-profit corporations or to allow Bennett to dismantle the teaching profession.”

Ritz raised about $325,000 in her campaign but enjoyed the enthusiastic support of teachers frustrated by the increasing demands by the Indiana Department of Education. Her pledge to back off the emphasis on standardized testing also seemed to resound with parents.

In spite of their own victories, Pence and the GOP majority at the Statehouse should take note of Ritz’s win. Hoosier voters aren’t buying their school-reform package.

Advertisement