Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Ousted Indiana Education Chief Tony Bennett: 'We Were Right On The Issues'

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

With family members looking on tearfully, Republican state superintendent Tony Bennett concedes the race for the state's top school official to Democrat Glenda Ritz.

In a stunning turn, GOP state superintendent Tony Bennett conceded Tuesday’s election to his Democratic challenger Glenda Ritz, standing firm in his support of policies that significantly altered Indiana’s education landscape during his term.

“It’s been a great honor to serve you. It’s been a great honor to serve your children,” he said in his speech to Indiana Republicans gathered in the north endzone of Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

After conceding, he spoke to reporters:

I still believe we were right on the issues. I still believe in giving parents choices on their childrens’ education. I still believe in passing legislation that demands we have effective teachers in classrooms and holding everyone accountable are the right policies. We knew when we came here we were going to make decisions that were going to upset the status quo… 

On teachers unions’ influence on the race:

There was a very effective ground game. There’s no question about that. We should never underscore that. But hey, I’m not here to vilify them — that’s their job. They had a candidate, they worked their tails off to get their candidate elected. More power to them. But tonight does not erase the last four years for Indiana children. Tonight doesn’t do that. I believe that when we look back on education history, this is going to be a very kind four years for Indiana education.

On the idea of the race as a “referendum” on a national push for education overhaul:

I don’t think it’s a message on reform. I believe it was a referendum on Tony Bennett. I believe this was an issue where it was more about not electing Tony Bennett. Again, no one can convince me that these aren’t the right policies, and we can argue about that all night long.

At Democratic headquarters, Ritz says Bennett called her to concede the race. She said he told her she ran a strong campaign and promised a smooth transition.

More to come.


  • Indiana Teacher

    Thank God!

  • dudeman

    Too much too fast…can sum up TB’s tenure. He seemed so hell bent on reform at all costs…things moved very quickily. Deeming a student “low growth” when they still passed the ISTEP or scored even Pass Plus?? When students earn a high score on ISTEP in grade 3, how in the world can you demonstrate “high growth” when they take it in 4th grade? There are many more examples – so glad we have someone who can identify with the PUBLIC school teachers in our great state. Funny, one of TB’s commercials…could have sworn it was shot in the Roncalli gym, and he wonders why so many public educators wanted him out?!

  • goodbye

    “There was a very effective ground game. There’s no question about that. We should never underscore that.” — Oh yes, never underscore it.

    “But hey, I’m not here to vilify them — that’s their job.” — Hilarious, was Tony channeling GWB?

    “I believe that when we look back on education history, this is going to be a very kind four years for Indiana education.” — If only Indiana’s teachers could produce students as articulate as this guy.

  • Karynb9

    So Dr. Bennett recognizes that it may have been about “style” instead of solely about “substance”? Interesting. I would agree, actually. Bringing teachers to the table early in the process and toning down the rhetoric would have helped him quite a bit. Hope he has learned his lesson before attempting to implement similar “substance” somewhere else without changing his “style.”


    Dr. Bennett believes that “holding everyone accountable” is the right policy. I couldn’t agree more except that not everyone is held accountable: teachers and schools are held accountable. When do the students, parents, and communities get to share in the responsibility?

    • Bilgewater

      But the voters held Dr. Bennett accountable. Sounds like richly deserved poetic justice to me.

  • Bilgewater

    Too bad Bennett will never understand all the reasons he was soundly thumped at the polls. You’d think a former science teacher such as he would understand some basic things like sound [educational] research and the need for solid evidence.

    My school got a good grade this year from Bennett’s A-F grading scale, but it was at a horrendous cost. Over the last three years, 3 teachers in my building had suicidal thoughts; I can’t count how many were on anti-depression medication (at least 5 that I know about). Another was unable to sleep unless he/she left the lights on. Two others had heart palpitations. Two more had shortness of breath. One teacher was known to be a social drinker only on the weekends; this teacher later admitted that he/she was drinking regularly during the week. And these are only the teachers I KNOW about. In the last three years, I’ve struggled with sleeplessness until my doctor gave me an excellent sleep aid.

    I am hoping Glenda Ritz can dismantle some of the more punitive and unfair features of Dr. Bennett’s agenda. Some of us teachers are barely hanging on because of the many “reforms” still in place.

    Before I sign off, I read somewhere on election day that Glenda Ritz is actually a Republican, but she switched parties to run against Bennett. In this same web post, it said she did not caucus with any Democrats. Does that mean she and Governor Mike Pence will have more in common than he realizes? (Early remarks by the governor-elect make it sound as if he’ll block everything she does–not a good sign.) Perhaps Mr. Pence should be reminded that he recieved fewer popular votes than Ritz did.

    I hope Pence is a good governor, or even a great one, but he will have to abandon the worst of Bennett’s policies if he expects to move education forward in the Hoosier State. Let’s hope teachers and others can educate him.

    I am a 28 year veteran of Indiana classrooms.

    • WisdomfromM2

      There is research afoot about Indiana’s jump in student suicide and attempts at suicide linked to ISTEP pressures and pressures to pass or there is no graduation. Stay tuned. The damage is far reaching. The future is turning dark. Students are not choosing teaching as a career. Applications to teacher education are down on average 1/3, and in some places by as much as 1/2. THAT is going to come home to roost for the state. Many graduating are advised to leave the state where there is more sanity in the profession. Parents who are teachers are adamant their children should not become teachers. No one deserves this kind of stress for the small amount of money teachers make, compared to other professionals with undergraduate degrees. Tony and Mitch didn’t see value in a master’s degree in teaching, so there is now a “ceiling” in how far teachers can go, unless, of course, they choose to leave Indiana in order to be rewarded. It’s going to get worse before it gets better.

  • Bilgewater

    Two more short comments I should’ve put in my previous post:
    (1) No matter what he claims, Bennett was dead WRONG on the issues. The only thing he was right about is that all children deserve a good education. Beyond that, he was mistaken, especially in the way he wanted to get those things.

    (2) I forgot to mention in my previous post that the school nurse in my building has been taking blood pressure readings on many staff members. You can imagine how high they are!

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