education

Ritz campaigns for local candidate



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Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz speaks Monday at the Monroe County Fairgrounds. Xu Ying and Xu Ying Buy Photos

Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz made a stop in Monroe County Monday to campaign for a local educator-turned-General Assembly candidate.

Ritz has been touring schools all over Indiana during the month of September.

She toured Bloomington High School South and Fairview Elementary during her time in Bloomington.

Ritz spoke at the Monroe County Fairgrounds on Monday evening. She said she came out to support Indiana General Assembly candidate Jeff Sparks.

“I’m sure he helped elect me,” she said. “So I’m here to help elect him.”

Ritz said she is looking for support from Indiana educators and legislators in the coming election season.

In particular, she said she doesn’t want the Center for Education and Career Innovation, recently created by Gov. Mike Pence, to take over some of Ritz’s and the Indiana Department of Education’s jurisdiction and funding.

CECI currently oversees the State Board of Education, which used to be under the INDOE’s umbrella.

“It’s important to me that we have legislators who are going to support the public education system that’s been around for 150 years,” Ritz said.

She’s hoping Sparks will be one of those legislators.

He’s running for office in District 62, which covers most of Greene County and parts of Daviess, Martin and Monroe counties, including the southwest side of Bloomington.

Sparks is also principal of Linton-Stockton Junior High School in Linton, Ind.

Ritz said Sparks is one of about a dozen educators who will run for seats in the Indiana General Assembly in the Nov. 4 midterm election.

“(Education) needs to be the No. 1 conversation in Indiana,” she said.

Just more than 20 people of voting age came to the rally, some with children who will be affected by any changes to public schools.

Attendee Sofia McDowell, who works for the IU Office of Research Administration, brought her 6-year-old son, Gianni.

He’s a first-grader in Monroe County Community Schools and is part of the reason she cares about public education. She began advocating for better public education because she was worried Indiana politicians didn’t care, she said.

“As a parent, I can be a lot louder than teachers,” she said.

She started campaigning on her own, then joined the Indiana Coalition for Public Education.

ICPE, a nonprofit, is against funding private school vouchers, expanding private school tax credits and some legislators say contributes to the privatization of public schools. Members of ICPE came to support Sparks, who has stated he is against Indiana’s voucher system.

“We can only support one school system in Indiana,” Sparks said.

Sparks ran for the District 62 seat in 2012 and lost to incumbent Matt Ubelhor, R-Dist. 62. Sparks was unopposed in the Democratic primary this year, and Ubelhor was unopposed in the Republican primary.

In the general election, Sparks, Ubelhor and Libertarian candidate Ashley Qualkenbush will all run for the District 62 seat.

Ritz took questions from educators and parents at the rally who wanted to know about the recent budget proposal, standardized testing and local school class sizes.

But Ritz is considering proposing changes to state testing if the No Child Left Behind Act is reauthorized at the federal level.

That could include growth assessment testing, in which students would be given the same test three times in one school year so their learning could be tracked.

The change wouldn’t come about just yet, Ritz said, but it’s something for educators to consider.

Advocate and former MCCSC teacher Phil Harris attended the meeting to hear what Ritz had to say and to campaign for Sparks. He said he is also against the voucher system and privatizing schools.

“I think education is being taken over by privatization,” he said. “We need someone to speak up for public ?education.”

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