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Tuesday, Nov. 28
The Indiana Daily Student


Superintendent of Public Instruction candidates debate


Candidates for the state’s highest education office offered contrasting visions for the future of public education in Indiana when they answered questions during a forum Thursday.

The Indiana League of Women Voters organized the event at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Ind. Indianapolis Star columnist Matthew Tully interviewed Democratic candidate Glenda Ritz and Republican incumbent State Superindenent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett separately.

Bennett went first.

Recent education reform should be further developed and implemented in the next four years, Bennett said.

“Reform’s never finished and results are never final,” he said.

Bennett has enacted reforms such as the Choice Scholarship private-school voucher program, A-F school-district grading and expansions of evaluations for teachers, students and administrators. He said these reforms were a part of his focus on choices for families, accountability for schools and measures of educator quality.

Ritz, said Bennett’s reforms need reformed because they created a culture of educators teaching students how to pass tests and misguided accountability, resultant of faulty evaluations.

Ritz said she plans to eliminate the “teach to test” culture and replace with it curriculum-based instruction; expand local control of school systems; implement effective measures of student growth and educator quality and improve readiness.

She said she will undo the Choice Scholarship and school turn-around programs.

“I’m for public dollars going to public schools,” Ritz said.

Bennett said the facts that graduation rates are up, and more students are passing the Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress (ISTEP) evaluation, are indicators his reforms are working.

“I give us a solid B,” Bennett said when Tully asked him what grade he gave himself.

Ritz didn’t offer her grade for Bennett, but she did attack the numbers Bennett used.

“ISTEP scores only went up 3 percent, not 8,” Ritz said.

She continued that high school graduation rates appear to have gone up when graduations earned from waivers are included in the statistic; when excluded, they’re not higher than usual, she said.

One problem both candidates were asked about was deficiency in pre-kindergarten readiness, something both candidates agreed had a negative influence on students’ growth.
Bennett said he will not require Indiana public schools to offer all-day kindergarten classes, funded publicly, because it’s expensive and classrooms are already too crowded.

In contrast, Ritz said she will require all-day, compulsory kindergarten glasses for all Indiana children 5 years or older.

She said when students enter kindergarten when they’re not ready, they go on to have problems graduating.

“When a student’s been retained twice, that’s your drop-out list,” Ritz said.

The candidates will reconvene at 7 p.m. Friday for a debate sponsored by Northeast Indiana Public Radio and The Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics.

It can be viewed live at

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