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2012 NEWSMAKER: School librarian Ritz won with grass-roots campaign

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2012
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                              of note

Democrat Glenda Ritz pulled off a David-versus-Goliath victory to unseat Republican Tony Bennett as Indiana’s superintendent of public instruction.

The librarian from Indianapolis was virtually unknown until the Indiana State Teachers Association endorsed her in late May. Even with the backing of the state’s teachers’ unions, she raised only $327,000 for her campaign.

glenda-ritz-1col.jpg Glenda Ritz says she’s not against accountability, but objects to the state’s emphasis on pass-fail standardized tests. (IBJ file photo)

Bennett, by contrast, had become a celebrity—for good and bad—in education circles both statewide and nationally because of his success in championing the most sweeping package of school reforms in the nation.

Bennett was able to raise an astounding $1.6 million for his re-election.

Bennett used his cash to run numerous television ads—always expecting that the National Education Association would try to match his spending.

Instead, Ritz waged a highly effective grass-roots campaign. In the week or two before the November election, Facebook pages lit up with pleas from educators to their friends to vote against Bennett.

Ritz also sheered away conservatives by emphasizing a return to local control after numerous state-level interventions by Bennett and the Legislature.

“Indiana government is asserting power to impose mandates that take away the very essence of our public school system,” Ritz wrote in an August column in IBJ.

The 58-year-old mother of two was a longtime Republican before she turned against the policies of Bennett and Gov. Mitch Daniels, particularly their emphasis on standardized, pass-fail tests like ISTEP. Instead, she wants to focus on improving classroom instruction by providing student performance data and support to teachers, especially in the area of reading.

“I’m not against accountability—at all. I just have a very different vision for what it looks like,” Ritz said. “You can’t just do it with test scores.”

Ritz also has said she has few beefs with the education reforms passed by the Legislature in 2011, but she does think Bennett was implementing them in aggressive ways not required by the laws.

“My first priorities and my first concern is to make sure the learning in the classroom is on the right track,” Ritz said. “So my focus is going to be on the implementation of laws that are already in place.”•

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  1. These liberals are out of control. They want to drive our economy into the ground and double and triple our electric bills. Sierra Club, stay out of Indy!

  2. These activist liberal judges have gotten out of control. Thankfully we have a sensible supreme court that overturns their absurd rulings!

  3. Maybe they shouldn't be throwing money at the IRL or whatever they call it now. Probably should save that money for actual operations.

  4. For you central Indiana folks that don't know what a good pizza is, Aurelio's will take care of that. There are some good pizza places in central Indiana but nothing like this!!!

  5. I am troubled with this whole string of comments as I am not sure anyone pointed out that many of the "high paying" positions have been eliminated identified by asterisks as of fiscal year 2012. That indicates to me that the hospitals are making responsible yet difficult decisions and eliminating heavy paying positions. To make this more problematic, we have created a society of "entitlement" where individuals believe they should receive free services at no cost to them. I have yet to get a house repair done at no cost nor have I taken my car that is out of warranty for repair for free repair expecting the government to pay for it even though it is the second largest investment one makes in their life besides purchasing a home. Yet, we continue to hear verbal and aggressive abuse from the consumer who expects free services and have to reward them as a result of HCAHPS surveys which we have no influence over as it is 3rd party required by CMS. Peel the onion and get to the root of the problem...you will find that society has created the problem and our current political landscape and not the people who were fortunate to lead healthcare in the right direction before becoming distorted. As a side note, I had a friend sit in an ED in Canada for nearly two days prior to being evaluated and then finally...3 months later got a CT of the head. You pay for what you get...

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