Superintendent debates, urban education forum

The Indiana superintendent of public instruction campaign is finally getting some attention, less than two weeks before the election. A debate will take place tonight (Oct. 26) between Republican incumbent Tony Bennett and Democratic challenger Glenda Ritz. It’s in Fort Wayne and runs from 7-8 p.m., sponsored by Northeast Indiana Public Radio and the Andy Downs Center on Indiana Politics at IPFW.

This event has a standard election debate format: two rounds of questions, posed alternately to each candidate, followed by closing statements. There will be no studio audience, but Northeast Indiana Public Radio will broadcast the debate, and folks can listen online. Kyle Stokes of NPR State Impact Indiana will moderate. As of Thursday, he was taking suggestions for questions.

Bennett and Ritz appeared Wednesday night in a forum at Wabash College. They didn’t debate, though. Indianapolis Star columnist Matthew Tully asked questions, first to Bennett, then to Ritz. You can watch on Wabash’s Youtube channel. State Impact Indiana, the Lafayette Journal and Courier and the Crawfordsville Journal Review covered it. Good for them!

Of course Bennett’s re-election ads are in steady rotation on Indy TV, making him sound like the best thing to happen to teachers since dry-erase markers. Bennett’s campaign claims his policy changes are responsible for increasing test scores and graduation rates in Indiana; but see Vic Smith’s post on the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education site for a different perspective.

Urban education forum

The Center for Evaluation and Education Policy at Indiana University is sponsoring a policy chat on the future of urban education next Wednesday (Oct. 31). It starts at 2 p.m. in the Georgian Room of the Indiana Memorial Education, on the IU Bloomington campus.

The focus is on Indianapolis, a hotbed for arguments about urban schools. You’ve got Indianapolis Public Schools, battling to hold its own in a hostile public sphere; the nonprofit Mind Trust, pushing charter schools, mayoral control and Teach for America and The New Teacher Project; and the Indiana Department of Education, paying parents to flee to church schools and threatening to take over IPS.

The chat will feature heavy hitters with widely divergent views. Keynote speakers will be Eugene White, the IPS superintendent; and David Harris, the Mind Trust founder and CEO. Panelists will include John Houser, a research associate at the Center for Urban and Multicultural Education at IUPUI; and Jason Kloth, education deputy to Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard.

For those of us in the hinterlands, the debates about education in Indianapolis, with their oblique but ever-present subtexts of race and poverty, sometimes seem to take place on another planet. This policy chat should provide a good glimpse into what it’s all about.

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