Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Glenda Ritz Unseats Tony Bennett In 'Referendum' On Indiana Education Policy

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

Democratic state superintendent candidate Glenda Ritz, a Washington Township teacher and union activist.

Democrat Glenda Ritz came from behind to unseat GOP incumbent Tony Bennett as Indiana’s Superintendent of Public Instruction in the biggest upset of Tuesday’s statewide election.

Bennett conceded around 10:30 p.m. ET in Indianapolis.

In toppling Bennett — a favorite of national supporters of expanding school choice and accountability — Ritz becomes the first Democrat elected the state’s top education post since 1973.

Ritz, a Washington Township teacher and union activist, overcame Bennett’s clear advantages in campaign fundraising, national acclaim and even newspaper endorsements.

The only poll to publish numbers on the race showed Bennett with a small but definite lead and a large swath of the electorate undecided only days before Election Day. Bennett was also able to mount a sustained campaign of television advertising through September and October.

But Ritz countered Bennett’s air attack with a strong ground game, drawing on the organizational assistance and financial support of the state’s teachers unions. (More than half of Ritz’s campaign contributions came from the political arm of the Indiana State Teachers Association.)

Bennett told StateImpact after conceding that he continues to believe in the policies for which he pushed, saying, “This wasn’t a referendum on reform, this was a referendum on Tony Bennett.”

This post will be updated.


  • Cathy Fuentes-Rohwer

    Oh, no, Mr. Bennett. It was a referendum against everything you stand for. It was a referendum against out-of-state profiteers thinking that they could throw their money in our Indiana races and manipulate the outcomes to their benefit. It was a referendum against the view that our schools are potential businesses and that the bottom line should be profit, not kids. It was a referendum against bullying and blaming teachers for all of society’s ills, calling them “unprofessional” all the while undermining teacher qualifications and development. It was referendum against competition which involves calling children “failures” and having “winners and losers” among 5 year-olds. You are now the loser in this scenario. Our children’s education is not a commodity and their future should not be sold to the highest bidder. I hope the rest of the country is watching because our democracy depends on these sorts of victories.

  • Karynb9

    I know the Republican “spin” is going to be to blame that darn union again, but while this was absolutely a case of teachers being united, official ISTA union membership and dues had nothing to do with it. Teachers from school districts all over the state regardless of “formal” party affiliation who have never been a part of the union came together for this vote. This race wasn’t won by “union dollars” (because if money had ANYTHING to do with it, Bennett would have won by a landslide) — it was won by teachers and the friends and family who love them realizing that something has to change. No, this election doesn’t change any of the legislative mandates handed down over the past four years and it doesn’t change the composition of the state board of education, but the over-reach of Bennett and the back-handed so-called “assistance” from the DOE to schools and educators will now change.

    StateImpact, thank you for the analysis of the issues and the one-stop-shopping your website provides for those of us who care about education policy in Indiana. This site was a valuable resource that I frequently pointed friends and family members to when they asked for additional information.

    • kystokes

      Karynb9, that’s very kind of you. Thanks for all your comments — we certainly notice you in our comments section a lot! — and I hope you’ll count on us to keep asking the tough questions of both sides as Ritz takes office.

  • Bilgewater

    Bennett tried to use an unfair evaluation of teachers. However, voters used a completely fair system of evaluation of him (it’s called the VOTE!).

    I suggest anyone who still supports Bennett replay his concession speech. Even after being soundly defeated, he still clung to his faulty ideas and mistaken approach.

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