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Ritz wins IN Superintendent post in upset

In perhaps the biggest upset of Tuesday’s statewide election, Democrat Glenda Ritz came from behind to unseat GOP incumbent Tony Bennett as Indiana’s Superintendent of Public Instruction.

In her victory speech, Ritz promised to lead the Department of Education as a teacher, not a politician. Relying heavily on grassroots support from the state’s teachers unions, Ritz secured 52% of the vote to defeat Bennett.

“This race should always be an elected position because it is just too important for the people to not have a say regarding the future of Indiana.”

It was an improbable, come-from-behind victory.  While Ritz relied on contributions from the Indiana State Teachers Association and hundreds of small-dollar donors, money flowed into Bennett’s campaign from dozens of out-of-state supporters.

Ritz promised to roll back many of Bennett’s key policy initiatives if elected, including high stakes reading tests for third graders, merit pay for teachers and an A through F grading system for schools.

Those policies have made Bennett the darling of national education activists, capturing the attention of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.  In his concession speech, Bennett defended Indiana’s education overhaul.

“I challenge our legislators to continue on a path of reform.”

Whether Ritz can actually roll back any of the Bennett-backed initiatives remains to be seen. She’ll have to work with a Republican governor, Mike Pence, who approached education as a jobs issue during the campaign, and a Republican-controlled legislature.