Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Trailing In Money Race, Ritz Counting On 'Grassroots' Support

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

Glenda Ritz, the Democratic candidate for Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction, speaks to about 60 people gathered in the Bloomington City Council chambers.

In her campaign for Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction, Glenda Ritz knows her base: teachers.

She herself is currently employed as a teacher. She referenced “REPA II” and Indiana’s “growth model” in a Bloomington campaign event Tuesday night — terms teachers are more likely to know. She says she doesn’t shy away from her understanding of methodology and pedagogy.

Ritz, a Democrat, speaks directly to teachers because she’s counting on their help in mounting a “grassroots” effort to unseat GOP incumbent Tony Bennett. Ritz hopes that support can counter Bennett’s substantial advantage in campaign fundraising.

“I am not worried about funding for this campaign,” Ritz told StateImpact Tuesday. “I have a good grassroots campaign. And at the end of the day, it’s about who shows up at the polls, and I firmly believe that I’ll be the next superintendent of public instruction.”

Any way you slice the numbers, Bennett holds a lopsided campaign fundraising advantage:

Since Ritz entered the race in June, Bennett has out-raised her by a 4-to-1 margin. Out of the $112,000 contributed to Ritz’s campaign, $100,000 has come from two infusions of cash from the political arm of the state’s largest teachers union. Campaign finance records show he has more than 30 times Ritz’s cash-on-hand total.

(You can compare for yourself: We’ve posted Ritz’s totals and Bennett’s totals through July, and neither candidate’s totals have changed much in August.)

Ritz, however, hopes campaign organizing can trump campaign coffers. She told her Bloomington audience Tuesday night she’s counting on union assistance in organizing teachers “not at the district level, but at the school level.”

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

State superintendent candidate Glenda Ritz.

She tells StateImpact her message resonates most with teachers who feel “disrespected”:

Keep in mind that I’m coming right out of the classroom, so I’m talking with the heart and the passion of an actual educator and have seen what Tony Bennett’s policies have done to education. That’s why I’m running. And yes, I have the knowledge base to be technical — so to speak — about issues and policies. I understand what is being enacted and what is happening to the schools and the students that we teach. And yeah, you’re hearing a big contrast between Tony Bennett and myself because I’m a teacher right out of the classroom.

Bennett was also a classroom teacher for 9 years in the ’80s and early ’90s before taking several administrative positions.

Ritz says she felt compelled to run for the post because of the growing prevalence of standardized testing in the schools, specifically citing the IREAD-3 reading exam as what drove her into the race. She is a plaintiff in a lawsuit against Indiana’s new private school voucher program, which she says siphons public dollars away from public schools. Ritz also criticizes the state’s teacher evaluation mandate as too punitive.

Bennett has said the evaluation mandate is oriented toward rewarding good teachers, not punishing bad ones. He has said parents need to have options to leave public schools that aren’t serving their kids. Bennett also says testing requirements ensure all children are getting quality education.


  • inteach

    Just look at contracts being negotiated across the state. The “reward” for good teachers, on average, will being around $400-500 per year. Divide that by 185 days. That’s what Bennett calls an incentive.

    Such a scam!

  • Bilgewater

    inteach, you’re exactly right. I met Glenda Ritz today (Sat. October 6) at the Mishawaka rally, and she talks about what concerns teachers most. The mounting disrespect and the “disincentives” to do better are what concern me the most. I expect some level of disrespect from the public (because they may be mis-informed), but I never expected to be disrespected by state leadership in Indianapolis. Governor Daniels called us teachers “privileged elite” not long before hosting an expensive political fundraising dinner (I know it was more than $1000 per plate). And Dr. Bennett has disrespected my efforts and labeled me “bad” because of my union membership. He knows *nothing* about me, he knows nothing about my union, and he has never set foot in my classroom to see if I’m an effective teacher.

    I think Bennett would have more “street cred” with teachers if he would substitute teach, and not just at well-heeled schools, but at schools which are struggling. Get thee to a public school and do some substitute teaching!

    I’ve noticed your comments in numerous other online forums besides this one. I find it hard to keep up with you, but I’m on the same page as you. Best wishes to you.

  • Peter Burkey

    I highly disagree with most teachers, even though I am a teacher. I am not concerned with protecting my cushy job. I am not part of the Union. When I understand that the average teacher in my district rakes in over $75,000.oo, I am sick. It is the union that has ruined much of the public education system, creating an enviornment of competition and angst between the teachers and the schools. The union plays a much more political role than one in education.

    Education needs to be local. National unions only want more power, as do Federal education programs. I am AGAINST both.

    Frankly, the broken state education (and especially Federal) system need to either get on track or fail. Most likely, they need to fail. Local control needs to replace Federal and State control. Parents need to be given choices instead of being given mandates. The closer decisions are made to home, the better. When I see that Ms. Ritz takes Union dollars and that she is a plaintiff in the lawsuit against vouchers, she has defined herself as part of the problem. Education needs to be local. Period. Parents and local school boards know better than the President, Governor, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, etc. Grass Roots starts with parents, and empowers them, not excludes them.

    It seems that the broken government run school system cannot be repaired (politics trumps student needs every time), don’t we need to consider what is best for students? Voucheres and parents being empowered to make decisions for their own children is what needs to happen.

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