The battle lines are clearly drawn in the race for Indiana's superintendent of public instruction. It's not just Republican vs. Democrat, but also the status quo vs. rapid change. We support reforms.
Incumbent Tony Bennett, the Republican, has aggressively pursued education reforms, including school accountability.
Bennett also has pushed for school vouchers to give parents a choice of where to send their children — to traditional public schools, charter schools or private schools. It's a matter of school choice for parents.
Democrat Glenda Ritz has strong credentials for the job. She is one of 155 board-certified teachers in Indiana, she said. She is endorsed by the Indiana State Teachers Association.
At the Indianapolis-area school district where Ritz works, "I was hired to build a strong culture of readers." That's something the entire state needs.
Ritz objects to the test being used to determine whether third-graders are reading at that grade level before advancing to fourth grade. Students who don't pass are held back.
But that's the point of these education reforms. Standardized tests are necessary to help gauge students' performance.
Ritz makes some good points about the nuances of standardized testing that Bennett should listen to. But that's dealing with technicalities when the big picture is the focus of choosing Indiana's next schools chief.
A key area where the candidates differ is on implementation of school accountability reforms.
Under Bennett's leadership, the Indiana Department of Education has begun taking over failing schools, beginning with Roosevelt High School in Gary and several schools in Indianapolis.
"I do not advocate for government takeover of schools," Ritz said. She prefers a local bottom-up approach rather than a top-down philosophy.
But look at what Bennett has done. His push for school accountability helped the Lake Ridge School Board convert Calumet High School to the New Tech method, which is producing good results. Without the threat of a state takeover, would that bold step have been taken?
"I like to say Indiana is where reform meets results," Bennett said. The results are improvements in the quality of education in Indiana, for which the state is receiving national recognition.
"What we were doing for generations wasn't working," Bennett said. He's right.
Bennett is brash, but extremely effective, as we have seen at Calumet and Roosevelt high schools. We endorse Bennett.