INDIANAPOLIS – Democrat Glenda Ritz stunned Republicans on Tuesday night when she narrowly defeated incumbent GOP Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett.
Ritz had 52 percent of the statewide vote when Bennett conceded about 10:30 p.m.
“I have no regrets,” said Bennett, who compared himself to a disposable lighter who lit the fire and was thrown away by voters.
“Four years ago we came here and we promised to do big things for Indiana families and children and I think we did that,” he said. “I am humbled to have had the opportunity to serve Indiana families, Indiana children for the last four years, and I can say we lived up to our promise that we wouldn’t make decisions on the basis of being elected or not.”
Ritz believes voters in Indiana were sending a message regarding Bennett’s policies and controversial tenor.
“Hoosiers don’t want their tax dollars going toward the privatization of our schools, and they don’t want our teaching and learning environments to be about teaching to the test,” Ritz told hundreds of Democrats who gathered at the Marriott Hotel in Indianapolis.
Bennett, a former school superintendent, teacher and coach, was elected comfortably four years ago. Since then he has pushed various reforms, including taxpayer-financed vouchers for private school, more charter schools, reduction in power to collectively bargain for teachers and tying teacher pay to student scores.
The 51-year-old has clashed with many teachers around the state.
Ritz, 58, has spent 33 years teaching at all levels. The one-time Republican has never run for office before and left the GOP fold in 2008.
She campaigned on several issues, including her contention that the high-stakes testing in Indiana is out of control, from the ISTEP+ accountability test to a new third-grade reading test aimed at aggressively holding back students who can’t read at third-grade level.
Ritz also decried a new A-F school grading system that has been criticized roundly as unfair.
She has proposed more communication with teachers and schools around the state.