News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

October 26, 2012

Stark differences between candidates for school superintendent

Bennett, Ritz both long-time educators

INDIANAPOLIS — Glenda Ritz and Tony Bennett are both longtime educators, but the ways they see the sweeping changes in Indiana schools and classrooms couldn’t be more different.

The Republican Bennett has spent the past four years as the state’s superintendent of public instruction championing those changes.

They include GOP-backed legislation that expanded charter schools and created the nation’s largest school voucher program; created a merit pay system that ties teacher pay and tenure to student performance; imposed more high-stakes testing for grade promotion and graduation; and created an A-to-F evaluation system to grade the effectiveness of schools.

Running for his second term, Bennett lauds those changes as cutting-edge reforms that make Indiana the model for the nation. And he’s called for even more.

“Why now would we want to slow down?” he asks.

The Democrat Ritz cites the very things Bennett hails as the reasons why she decided to run against him, with support from the state’s teachers unions.

She objects to the major changes individually. For example, she calls the new third-grade reading assessment test both harmful and “heart-breaking” for students who fail it and risk being held back a grade. But she also sees the changes as a collective effort to undermine public education, set public teachers up for failure and lay the groundwork, she said, to “privatize schools.”

“All this legislative action has gone through so quickly with no barriers, and no understanding of the awful consequences,” Ritz said. “I really feel like teachers, kids, parents and communities have been caught in the middle of a political agenda.”

Bennett and Ritz differ on substance, but also in style.

Ritz, 58, of Indianapolis has been a classroom teacher for 33 years. The mild-mannered mother of two thinks teachers have been left out of the process of education reform and demonized by reform advocates. She was a longtime Republican who left the party when Indiana Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels began pushing hard for the education changes that have been put into place.

Bennett, 51, from New Albany, has been a classroom teacher, school administrator and basketball coach. He describes himself as competitive and impatient — and also misunderstood. He regrets he’s been portrayed by opponents as someone who doesn’t value teachers or public education.

“That’s a caricature of me they drew, that I allowed them to draw,” Bennett said. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Ritz and Bennett also differ on how they would spend the next four years, if elected.

Ritz believes Bennett and the state Department of Education, which he oversees, have overstepped with aggressive implementation of the education-reform legislation passed over the past four years.

If elected, she said, she would do whatever she could to slow down the education overhaul and have the DOE work with every school district in the state on a comprehensive assessment of how schools and students have been impacted by all the changes.

“The policies out of the Statehouse have been one-size-fits-alls,” Ritz said. “It’s been: ‘Here are the policies. Here are the mandates. Now get it done.’”

Bennett disagrees. He acknowledges that the state has set new standards for students’ academic performance, teacher evaluations and other measures. “But how schools reach those standards are up to them,” he said.

If re-elected, Bennett said, he’d oppose any effort to slow down implementation of the major reforms. “Lack of implementation is the death of reform,” he said.

Another major difference is the size of their campaign war chests.  

The latest campaign financial reports (released in mid-October) show Bennett’s campaign has raised more than $1.3 million, with some of that money coming from big-ticket donors who have supported similar education changes like that going in indiana. That includes $200,000 from Alice Walton, the daughter of Walmart founder Sam Walton, and $40,000 from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Ritz’s campaign, in comparison, had raised less than $224,000, with much of that money coming from teacher unions political action committees and small individual donors.

Maureen Hayden is the Indiana Statehouse bureau chief for CNHI, the parent company of the Tribune-Star. She can be reached at maureen.hayden@indianamediagroup.com.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local & Bistate
Latest News
TribStar.com Poll
AP Video
Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station New York Auto Show Highlights Latest in Car Tech Small Reactors Could Be Future of Nuclear Energy Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Raw: Massive 7.2 Earthquake Rocks Mexico Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes New York Auto Show Highlights Latest in Car Tech Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Raw: Magnitude-7.2 Earthquake Shakes Mexico City Raw: Pope Presides Over Good Friday Mass Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest NASA Releases Images of "graceful" Solar Flare Human Antidepressants Making Shrimp Too Calm Anti-semitic Leaflets Posted in Eastern Ukraine Raw: Church Tries for Record With Chalk Jesus Swiss Unveil New Solar Plane for Global Flight Raw: Faithful Celebrate Good Friday Worldwide Raw: Four French Journalists Freed From Syria
NDN Video
Jabari Parker's Top 5 Plays From Duke Career Kourtney Kardashian Is a Bikini Babe More Manpower Than Ever Expected At 4/20 Rally Debunk'd: Miley Cyrus AIDS, Cheeseburgers Cause Cancer, Military Warning Bill Previewing the NBA playoffs Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite My name is Cocaine Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Lohan Gets Candid About Her Sex List The 2014 New York Auto Show Meet Johnny Manziel's New Girlfriend Chelsea Clinton Announces Pregnancy Funny: Celebrating Easter with Martha Stewart and Friends Man Accuses 'X-Men' Director Bryan Singer of Sexually Abusing Him As a Teenager Man hit with $525 federal fine after he doesn't pay for soda refill Lea Michele & Naya Rivera Feuding? Jabari Parker declares for the NBA draft Singing Nun Belts Out Cyndi Lauper New West, Texas Explosion Video Swim Daily, Throwback Thursday
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
  • -

     

    March 12, 2010

activity