In what she called a “referendum” on the last four years of Indiana’s overhaul, Democrat Glenda Ritz captured 52 percent of the vote to make Republican Tony Bennett a one-term state superintendent.
Ritz says Bennett took Indiana “in the wrong direction” when it came to quality classroom instruction, an argument that resonated with educators dissatisfied with high stakes testing and teacher evaluations. She says new requirements make Indiana educators teach to the test and wants to see “common sense” assessments in reading, writing and math replace the current ISTEP test. She says the IREAD-3 — Indiana’s high stakes reading test — prompted her to run against Bennett. Ritz, a teacher in Indianapolis’ Washington Township, has made literacy a priority on the campaign trail.
Ritz had the backing of the Indiana State Teachers Association, which mobilized local teachers unions to support Ritz. Even though Bennett had a clear fundraising advantage, Ritz relied on grassroots support and small-dollar donations to win.
Ritz has acknowledged that it will be an uphill battle to get her policies enacted without the support of Democrats in the statehouse. She’d like to dismantle the current A-F grading system, which she says has a detrimental effect on communities whose schools have been labeled as “failing.” Ritz is also against the expansion of school vouchers. She was a plaintiff in an ongoing challenge to the state’s Choice Scholarship Program but has since withdrawn from the suit.
As head of the Department of Education, Ritz will be in charge of implementing the policies her predecessor pushed, including controversial teacher licensure rules known as REPA II that the State Board of Education is in the process of rewriting.