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Indiana Superintendent Race a Test of Education Vision and Power

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

If the Indiana State Teachers Association had its way, 2011 never would have happened.

While much of the focus was on the antics of leftists at the Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin and their efforts to subvert Gov. Scott Walker’s reforms, Indiana endured its share of union silliness, too.


Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and State Superintendent Tony Bennett were pursuing a bold plan to remake the government education system and expand educational options for families. Enacting the first statewide school choice program in the country, the duo led the nation with a comprehensive education reform plan.

That program was, of course, contested in court by the Indiana State Teachers Association. The union lost. Families now have school choice because of Daniels and Bennett.

The natural union reaction was to exact revenge and that’s precisely what it’s attempting to do in this year’s state superintendent race.

Bennett’s Democratic opponent is Glenda Ritz. She’s was on the ISTA board of directors when the union experienced a financial meltdown of its insurance arm. ISTA Trust, which provided health and disability insurance to dozens of school districts, lost $67 million of school money due to mismanagement and was subsequently investigated by the FBI. The situation for the ISTA was so bad that its parent organization, the National Education Association, took over day-to-day operations.

Ritz wants to bring that type of leadership to the state level.


Curiously, in its endorsement of Ritz, the ISTA didn’t list that experience, nor did it mention Ritz was president of the Washington Township Education Association, a suburban Indianapolis local teachers union.

The ISTA likely doesn’t want voters to realize that it’s trying to install one of its own in the statehouse, right across the street from its massive headquarters. That would make the union seem self-serving, which is exactly what it has been for decades.

Regardless of the union’s intentions or its efforts to gloss over its candidate’s history, the election comes down to a contrast in visions for education. Will voters endorse bold reform and expanded choice, or ISTA’s agenda of collective bargaining over the color of the paint in the teachers’ lounge and other adult-centered issues? We’ll find out next week.

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