Ritz reaches out … Republicans, not yet

Indiana Superintendent-Elect of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz sounded ready to compromise during a brief interview Friday for WFIU public radio’s “Noon Edition” program. The Democrat said she’s not worried about how hard it will be to work with Republicans who control the Statehouse.

“I’m going to work with all legislators,” she said. “That’s what I’ve always done.”

And while Ritz has criticized the education policies that the legislature and State Board of Education have adopted – school vouchers, test-based teacher evaluations, A-to-F grades for schools – she didn’t call for undoing the changes.

“I’m really not looking to repeal all kinds of things … I think it’s all about implementation of what’s in place already,” she said.

But compromise takes two sides. And Indiana Republicans have been dismissive of Ritz’s upset win over incumbent Superintendent Tony Bennett.

Gov.-elect Mike Pence said, “We ran on a platform of continuing a bold agenda of education reform … and we’ve been given the opportunity to lead based on those ideas.”

Outgoing Gov. Mitch Daniels vowed that none of the policies he and Bennett supported would be rolled back. “There’s a board of education I appointed that the new superintendent reports to,” he said. “Every one of them is pro-reform. And we have a very idealist pro-reform administration coming in.”

Republican Rep. Bob Behning, chairman of the House Education Committee, said many of Ritz’s supporters “didn’t really know the issues.”

Ritz said she’ll count on her supporters to let their representatives know what they think. “They have spoken very loudly, very clearly, that this race was a referendum on education,” she told WFIU. “They’re going to make sure their voices are heard by their legislators.”

The question is whether Pence and GOP lawmakers will push for more radical changes, like extending private school vouchers to more students and parents — and how their constituents will respond if that happens.

More on what happened

Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute offered his take last week on the Ritz-Bennett race. He apparently was writing out of pique. He said Bennett is a friend – and “a stud” – and his loss hurt. Hess had to lash out.

So he lashed out at … Arne Duncan?

His argument goes something like this: Bennett was right to support and get Indiana to adopt the Common Core Standards, along with most other states. But President Obama and Duncan, his secretary of education, made such a big deal about the Common Core that it seemed like a federal take-over. So Hoosiers rightly got suspicious and punished Bennett.

It’s true that some tea-party types (and some leftists and some teachers) don’t like Common Core. But most voters don’t care that much about standards. Conservatives who don’t like Common Core wouldn’t have been likely to support Ritz, a teacher aligned with the Indiana State Teachers Association.

But could the issue have significantly depressed Bennett’s votes? If it had, you’d expect a reduced vote total for superintendent of public instruction. Yet 97.9 percent as many people voted in the 2012 superintendent race as voted in the gubernatorial election. In 2008, when Bennett first was elected, the comparable figure was 95.9 percent.

Nah, it wasn’t about Common Core. Especially when there’s an alternative explanation that makes sense: teachers, teachers, teachers – and friends of teachers.

Indy Star reporter Scott Elliott examines five theories about what happened and concludes that “more evidence points to a teacher-led movement, online and word-of-mouth, born of frustration with Bennett, his style and his policies.” Also getting it right: Kyle Stokes of State Impact Indiana and teacher-blogger Keith Manring.

Finally, there’s Hoosier character. When I wrote this week that Indiana residents are “comfortable being in the middle” and leery of radical reforms, I hadn’t yet read this nice piece by the Star’s Mary Beth Schneider. She interviews IU historian Jim Madison, who traces innate Hoosier caution back to the mid-1800s, when the state went bankrupt for investing heavily in canals and roads.

Madison says the lesson Hoosiers took from the experience was this: “Don’t get too far ahead, hang back, stay in the middle, don’t venture out, don’t take risks, don’t innovate and especially don’t create responsibilities for government that are none of its business.”

Schneider concludes: “From the middle of the country, Indiana’s message to the nation: The middle of the road is best.”


2 thoughts on “Ritz reaches out … Republicans, not yet

  1. So basically Daniels and Bennet rigged the education boards, crammed all these trash reforms and is saying that even though they aren’t in control anymore we are stuck with this crap?

    Whats the point of elections if idiots like this can thwart progress? the reforms that have been put in place have not been the benefit of teachers, Students or their futures. it was all political maneuvering and that game of smoke and mirrors doesnt help our children one bit.

    remove hand writing as a requirement, I have doubts thats a good idea for many reasons… Contracts being one of them.

    Voucher programs for the religious private schools… yep that’s worked out real well.. False history and brainwashing that’s government sponsored.. they didn’t even try to hide it. By the way, didn’t we declare that was wrong during the Nuremburgh trials after WW2?

    Oh, and lets not forget all the teachers favorite reform.. the merit pay system.. im curious just how many teachers thanked Daniels for that. Oh wait Ritz won thats right..

    Anyway Ritz has an uphill battle and im curious to see if she has the spine to challenge the reforms that are not in favor of supporting our Teachers and Students. Going into office with the thought of not challenging improper policies and policies that are not supportive of education but appearances and scores is ridiculous.

  2. I believe that a smart move for Rep. Behning might be to apologize to our teachers for calling them ignorant, with the implication that Superintendent Ritz is also ignorant. This is not a very good way to begin a working relationship, is seems that again the ones who will suffer will be our students.
    It seems to me while the people desired to continue with a Republican controlled Statehouse, but chose a Democratic Superintendent, that just maybe the people by and large were not happy with the direction of the states public education agenda.
    Call me ignorant if you want to, but in the same breath you would also be calling a large percentage of people who voted Republican except for Superintendent ignorant as well. Not shall we say the smartest of moves.
    People don’t like the direction things are going so they simply vote for change or for someone to mediate to a more productive middle ground. The comments that I have read from both the outgoing and incoming governor’s administrations would indicate that they see no need to change but seem more inclined to push forward with an agenda that was deemed not good enough by the voters. Have we not learned anything from the gridlock in Washington, I thought that we Hoosiers had more common sense than that
    I implore all that are involved in this process to work together toward a middle ground that will be in the best interest of all the citizen’s of this great state of ours, but most importantly for our children.
    Believing that child’s worth is not determined by their intellect. Maybe the same could be said for all us Hoosiers who voted for this change.

    Seeking, working and praying for peace in this place.
    Pastor Gary Lynch

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