Indiana

Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Should Indiana Elect Its Schools Chief?

Elle Moxley / Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

Republican incumbent Tony Bennett, left, says he believes state superintendent should be an appointed position. His challenger, Democrat Glenda Ritz, says voters should get a say.

That’s the question Ben Wieder poses in a recent Stateline report on the handful of states that elect their state superintendents:

Some 13 states currently make their top education official subject to a popular vote. And in virtually every one of those states, there are critics who ask why such an office should be so deeply involved in politics. … While education contests are down-ballot elections, and don’t draw the same attention as other statewide campaigns, the ones this year are coming at a time of major change in education policy across the country, change that’s been driven by federal Race to the Top grants and No Child Left Behind waivers. In addition to drawing arguments about the scope of the position, the races serve as a broader referendum on those education changes.

In a race defined by stark contrasts between the two candidates, it’s not surprising that Indiana’s Superintendent for Public Instruction hopefuls — Republican incumbent Tony Bennett and Democratic challenger Glenda Ritz — also disagree on whether state superintendent should be an elected position.

Bennett told StateImpact he wants state superintendent to be an appointed position while answering a question about campaign fundraising last month.

“You’re talking to the guy who wanted this position to be an appointed position so money didn’t have to be raised,” says Bennett. “We had very little question that there could possibly be outside interests who would come in and make large expenditures against us. Frankly this is a campaign. This is a political race. We’re in a position ourselves to be successful and that’s what we intended to do on our fundraising efforts.”

By contrast, Ritz says she wants voters to have a direct hand in the implementation of education policies.

“I strongly feel it should be an elected office for the very contrast that you see this year,” Ritz says. “I think the people of Indiana should always decide upon the elected position of Superintendent of Public Instruction because education is so vital to the economic prosperity of our state. They should have a say in that, it should not be relegated to the governor appointing one person, perhaps for political reasons.”

Listen To Bennett and Ritz Discuss The Issues On Live Radio

Our very own Kyle Stokes will be asking the questions during Friday’s debate in Fort Wayne. Northeast Indiana Public Radio will broadcast the debate, which The Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics organized. You can stream the debate online at 7 p.m. Eastern.

If you’re talking about the debate on Twitter tonight, be sure to use the hashtag #EdDebate.

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