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What is happening in Indiana right now is an outrage. The Republican party holds every statewide office but one: State Superintendent of Education.
That post was won by Democrat Glenda Ritz in 2012, when she defeated Tony Bennett, the avid promoter of charters, vouchers, and Common Core, even though Bennett outspent her by a margin of 5-1. It was a stunning upset. Ritz got more votes than Governor Mike Pence or anyone else on the ticket. Tony Bennett, chair of Jeb Bush’s “Chiefs for Change” was quickly hired as Florida Commissioner of Education but almost as quickly resigned when the story broke that he had adjusted school grades to protect the charter school of a big campaign donor.
From the day of Glenda Ritz’s election a little more than two years ago, Governor Pence has employed every political strategy to strip her office of any authority for education. He created a competing agency that reports directly to him. He appoints every member of the State Education Board, which the State Superintendent chairs. Now in his pettiness, he and his allies in the Legislature are moving bills to remove her as chair of the State Board and allow the Board to elect its own chair which obviously won’t be Ritz. If Pence and pals have their way, Ritz will have a title with no authority whatever.
Dave Bangert, a columnist for the Lafayette Journal and Courier, wrote a scathing article about this sordid situation. Most shocking is the statement by David Long, the president of the Indiana State Senate, in a radio interview. In defense of the party’s willful effort to strip Ritz of her duties, he said, “In all fairness, Superintendent Ritz was a librarian, OK?” The implication was that she was “just a librarian,” unqualified for the position to which the voters elected her.
You have to wonder whether he was so condescending because he has no respect for librarians or because he has no respect for women.
Whatever it is, he certainly has no respect for the voters. Ritz was elected by a large margin. As Bangert writes, an attack on Ritz is an attack on the voters.
Frankly, I would like to see her run against Mike Pence in two years and do to him what she did to Tony Bennett. Go, Glenda!