Democrat Glenda Ritz, backed by the state teachers' union, has knocked off a big-time figure in the education policy world, Indiana Superintendent Tony Bennett. As of about 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, the word spread that Bennett began giving his concession speech.
Bennett outraised Ritz by a huge margin and has a national profile thanks to his work on issues related to charter schools, school choice, and the state takeover of struggling schools in the Indianapolis region. But when I spoke to Ritz for my story last month on state superintendent races, she showed plenty of energy, and was very determined to fight back against Bennett's agenda. Too much of Bennett's work, she said, was based on standardized testing, from teacher training to teacher evaluation and many things in between. It looks like her message had worked.
This has to be a major blow for charter, school choice, and the general "education reform" community. Bennett was an outspoken champion of big changes that happened in the Hoosier State and others around the country, and he was also a strong GOP voice for things like the Common Core State Standards. What will his loss mean for that community going forward? At the very least, it looks like new Gov.-elect Michael Pence, a Republican, won't have a partisan partner in the state superintendent's job. But how much of Bennett's agenda will Ritz actually be able to roll back?