Ritz makes for interesting state dynamic

(Lafayette) Journal and Courier

What do they say about Washington, D.C.? Congress is broken, but my representative ... well, he’s OK.

Twist that a bit and apply it to Indiana schools, and you get a sense of how Tony Bennett, the state’s run-and-gun school reformer, went down so spectacularly and unexpectedly in Tuesday’s elections.

Hoosiers have heard often during Bennett’s four years as state superintendent of public instruction that the school system is broken. They might even believe it. But do they believe it as much as they trust in their kid’s teacher?

Not likely.

And Glenda Ritz, a Democrat who came out of nowhere to stun Bennett and the school reform machine, had teachers by the gross on her side.

Bennett has been the face of school reform in Indiana, and beyond. He championed the state’s private school voucher system — the most aggressive in the nation. And he ushered bills that brought limits on teachers unions’ ability to negotiate contracts, swifter state takeover of failing schools, and broader grading of every elementary, middle school and high school.

Republicans who carried those bills at the Statehouse dominated their races Tuesday. The GOP won a super-majority in the Indiana House, effectively muting what was left of sparse Democratic strength. Bennett should have sailed.

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