NEWSMAKERS: Tony Bennett & Glenda Ritz



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Newsmakers

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Bennett Bennett

In November 2012, Democrat Glenda Ritz defeated Republican Tony Bennett in the race for Indiana’s superintendent of public instruction.

But the two never stopped fighting each other.

Days before his term ended in early January, Bennett pushed major new changes to teacher licensing rules through the State Board of Education—over the strong objection of Ritz. Those rule changes never took effect, however, because of procedural missteps.

After Bennett and several of his key staff members headed to Florida to become that state’s schools chief, Ritz’s staff set about combing the former email accounts of Bennett and his team.

What they found was explosive.

glenda ritz Ritz

There was a chain of emails from September 2012 showing Bennett and his team discussing ways to alter the A-F grading system for schools in order to make sure the Christel House Academy in Indianapolis received an A. The Associated Press, which first reported the emails, cast that decision as a favor to the school’s founder, philanthropist Christel DeHaan, who had been a major contributor to Bennett’s campaign.

But Bennett said his staff was simply using Christel House—which is widely acknowledged as an outstanding school—as a quality control mechanism to make sure his new A-F formula was working properly.

The controversy forced Bennett to resign his post in Florida. A special investigation later found that Bennett’s changes to the A-F formula were “plausible,” but that Bennett’s understaffed agency had rushed the grading formula.

An effort to rewrite the A-F formula has now bogged down in a bitter battle between Ritz, the State Board of Education and Republican Gov. Mike Pence, who appoints the members of the board.

Ritz’ team also found a Republican donor list stored on the state’s computers. That prompted the Indiana inspector general to file an ethics complaint against Bennett in November.

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