Tony Bennett Lost; Not Education Reform
As you know by now, Tony Bennett, Indiana’s nationally acclaimed State Superintendent of Public Instruction and education reform champion was defeated just two weeks ago in his reelection bid against Glenda Ritz.
Ritz was neither well-known or well-funded, yet the Indianapolis educator somehow pulled off a strong victory against one of the Indiana GOP’s stars. There are likely a number of factors that led to her victory, but an aggressive grassroots campaign which activated supporters across Indiana is receiving a large part of the credit.
In retrospect, with an election that saw Mike Pence win the governorship with a narrow margin it cannot be too shocking that Bennett who likely was always running slightly behind Pence did not win against his politically innovative opponent. Yet, in an effort to capitalize on this victory some are attempting to make the case that the electoral defeat was somehow a referendum on education reform and school choice. This is simply not accurate.
The education reforms of 2011 were embraced by candidates for state legislative offices across Indiana, and in some cases, opposition to these reforms was actually used against candidates who took the opposing stance. If the issue was so unpopular, why was it not used against those who supported the reforms?
Hoosiers are benefiting by the thousands now due to the reforms which Bennett helped shepherd into existence. New programs like the choice scholarship program are empowering parents. Accountability measures, while surely not perfect, are at least a step in the right direction and asking our teachers and schools to take a serious look at their operations and effectiveness of their methods. Those wanting to withhold these innovations from Hoosier parents do so at their own peril. If given the choice, Hoosiers will choose freedom and school improvement over special interests.
Tony Bennett should be commended for everything he has done for education in our state. Whether you agreed with him or not, 100% or just 10% of the time, Bennett took the office seriously and his job to improve education in our state as a mission.