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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. Those of you yelling to deport them all should at least understand that the law allows minors (if not from a bordering country) to argue for asylum. If you don't like the law, you can petition Congress to change it. But you can't blindly scream that they all need to be deported now, unless you want your government to just decide which laws to follow and which to ignore.

  2. 52,000 children in a country with a population of nearly 300 million is decimal dust or a nano-amount of people that can be easily absorbed. In addition, the flow of children from central American countries is decreasing. BL - the country can easily absorb these children while at the same time trying to discourage more children from coming. There is tension between economic concerns and the values of Judeo-Christian believers. But, I cannot see how the economic argument can stand up against the values of the believers, which most people in this country espouse (but perhaps don't practice). The Governor, who is an alleged religious man and a family man, seems to favor the economic argument; I do not see how his position is tenable under the circumstances. Yes, this is a complicated situation made worse by politics but....these are helpless children without parents and many want to simply "ship" them back to who knows where. Where are our Hoosier hearts? I thought the term Hoosier was synonymous with hospitable.

  3. Illegal aliens. Not undocumented workers (too young anyway). I note that this article never uses the word illegal and calls them immigrants. Being married to a naturalized citizen, these people are criminals and need to be deported as soon as humanly possible. The border needs to be closed NOW.

  4. Send them back NOW.

  5. deport now

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