Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

The Most Interesting Thing In The AP’s Latest Education Email Story

A logo for Republican Tony Bennett's campaign displayed on a scoreboard at Lucas Oil Stadium, where the Indiana GOP held its Election Night watch party. Bennett, the incumbent, is running against Democrat Glenda Ritz for the state superintendent's office.

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

A logo for Republican Tony Bennett's campaign displayed on a scoreboard at Lucas Oil Stadium, where the Indiana GOP held its Election Night watch party. Bennett, the incumbent, lost the election to Democrat Glenda Ritz.

“Appointed state superintendent.”

That’s the eighth bullet point on a draft of Tony Bennett’s nine-point 2011 legislative wish-list — part of an email string the Associated Press published over the weekend.

All of these bullet points ended up in a piece of legislation in the General Assembly. Most of these wish list items, from school choice legislation to a teacher evaluation mandate and a new textbook statute, eventually passed.

One item did not: “Appointed state superintendent.”

This might be the most interesting tidbit in this weekend’s AP story — not necessarily that Bennett and his team wanted to make the state superintendent an appointive position, but that his team discussed the possibility as early as July 2010.

That’s two years, of course, before his loss in the 2012 election to Glenda Ritz. Even during the campaign, Bennett was open about his desire to change the position.

“You’re talking to the guy who wanted this position to be an appointed position so money didn’t have to be raised,” Bennett told StateImpact in October 2012. “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.”

The Indiana Constitution calls for the “selection” of a state superintendent, but doesn’t specify whether the state superintendent should be elected or appointed.

Lawmakers offered two bills at the start of the General Assembly’s session in 2011 that would’ve fulfilled this wish-list item. They went nowhere.

And that’s what makes this interesting. Most of the other items on Bennett’s July 2010 legislative agenda eventually became law. They’re cornerstones of Indiana’s education overhaul. Why did “appointed state superintendent” fall by the wayside?


  • Jack Irsay

    are you allergic to original reporting? go find out for us why it fell by the wayside, you lazy bum.

  • Karynb9

    Well, I imagine it’s because the position of State Superintendent of Public Instruction had been held by a Republican for 75 out of the previous 100 years (with Ritz being the first Democrat elected to the office since 1972). The Indiana Governor has only been a Republican for 56 out of the previous 100 years. The Republicans in control of the Indiana House and Senate probably thought it would be easier to keep that office in Republican hands if they kept it an elected position. Many people in this state are Republicans by default (if they don’t know much about the people running and don’t necessarily care too much about the position, they’ll just vote for the Republican) and that has been enough to keep positions like State Auditor and State Treasurer in Republican hands recently. I think the assumption was that it would be the same with this position.

  • Jami Beckham

    As I understand it, Indiana is only one of a few states where the position of Superintendent of Public Instruction is an elected office.

    • Julian Smith

      Yes but as I understand, in those states with appt. Supts the state board is elected. Don’t believe any state has both appted.

      • kystokes

        Indiana’s one of 12 states, I think, that still elect state supes. (Most sources said 13 as of last election, but Wyoming’s getting rid of its elected state supe position.)

        I don’t know about the State Boards elected vs. appointive thing… I’m Minnesota-reared, and Minnesota’s top education official is appointive and Minnesota doesn’t have a State Board.

  • Teresa Wardwell Wiley

    One good reason to have an elected state superintendent is for balance. The State Board of Education is appointed by the governor so it is nice to have someone selected by voters for their voice in education.

    • Tom J. McConnell

      The most important part of this is to give the voters their voice! Mike Pence has decided BY EXECUTIVE ORDER to create a NEW department to bypass the legally established system. ONE MAN CAN CREATE A NEW STRUCTURE TO OUR GOVERNMENT?? ONE MAN CAN CUT AN ELECTED OFFICIAL OUT OF THE LOOP???

      That is NOT the democracy we should have! That is a dictatorship!!

      Wake up, Hoosiers!! Mike Pence is robbing you of your rights as a voter!!

  • Jorfer88

    Doesn’t surprise me. The legislature was working on getting right to work passed, which put them in the middle of showdown with a stalwart opposition, which eventually involved a Democrat walkout if you don’t forget. The last thing they needed was to lose Bennett’s democratic mandate, and allow them to a widespread view of ruthlessness.

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