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

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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. I never thought I'd see the day when a Republican Mayor would lead the charge in attempting to raise every tax we have to pay. Now it's income taxes and property taxes that Ballard wants to increase. And to pay for a pre-K program? Many studies have shown that pre-K offer no long-term educational benefits whatsoever. And Ballard is pitching it as a way of fighting crime? Who is he kidding? It's about government provided day care. It's a shame that we elected a Republican who has turned out to be a huge big spending, big taxing, big borrowing liberal Democrat.

  2. Why do we blame the unions? They did not create the 11 different school districts that are the root of the problem.

  3. I was just watching an AOW race from cleveland in 1997...in addition to the 65K for the race, there were more people in boats watching that race from the lake than were IndyCar fans watching the 2014 IndyCar season finale in the Fontana grandstands. Just sayin...That's some resurgence modern IndyCar has going. Almost profitable, nobody in the grandstands and TV ratings dropping 61% at some tracks in the series. Business model..."CRAZY" as said by a NASCAR track general manager. Yup, this thing is purring like a cat! Sponsors...send them your cash, pronto!!! LOL, not a chance.

  4. I'm sure Indiana is paradise for the wealthy and affluent, but what about the rest of us? Over the last 40 years, conservatives and the business elite have run this country (and state)into the ground. The pendulum will swing back as more moderate voters get tired of Reaganomics and regressive social policies. Add to that the wave of minority voters coming up in the next 10 to 15 years and things will get better. unfortunately we have to suffer through 10 more years of gerrymandered districts and dispropionate representation.

  5. Funny thing....rich people telling poor people how bad the other rich people are wanting to cut benefits/school etc and that they should vote for those rich people that just did it. Just saying..............

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