This is the Choice Media #EdReformMinute for Friday, November 9th.

Bob Bowdon

Education reform was on the ballot for a number of states in this November election, and the results were a mixed bag.  Charter schools won big in Georgia, and apparently by a sliver in Washington state — they’re still counting the votes there.  

On the other hand, Idaho voters rejected education reforms of traditional districts, like merit pay and more online learning.  South Dakota voters said “no thanks” to a law that would have added merit pay and the use of student test scores as a part of a teacher evaluation.

BennettRitzSo… a mixed bag.  But of the setbacks, perhaps the one that stung the most to education reformers was the loss of Indiana’s State Superintendent of Education, Dr. Tony Bennett.  He has the same name as the famous singer, but this Tony Bennett helped usher in the nation’s first statewide school voucher program, now in its second year.  To say the voucher law has been popular would be an exercise in understatement.  This year the enrollment has more than doubled to over 9,300. 

Bennett also reformed what’s often called social promotion.  He put in place a third grade reading test that kids must pass to advance to fourth grade, rather than just being a year older.  Bennett’s challenger and new state superintendent-elect, Glenda Ritz, has pledged to roll back those social promotion reforms.  Ritz beat Bennett, 52% to 48%.

Lindsey Brown runs the group School Choice Indiana.

“I think that opponents were really most effective at painting Dr. Bennett as being anti-teacher.  Those of us that know Dr. Bennett know this not to be true.  But certainly he was unapologetic in his pursuit to do what was right for Indiana kids, and of course that’s what many of us loved about him.”

Lindsey Brown

Interestingly, the same voters who rejected Bennett, also embraced Bennett’s friend Mike Pence in the Indiana governor’s race.  It led to instant punditry over how to interpret the seemingly schizophrenic Indiana electorate.  Why would a state that elected a new Republican governor, and went for Mitt Romney in the Presidential contest, toss out its Republican education chief?  Were they rejecting the education reform policies, or Dr. Tony Bennett the man?

“As was shown on election day, I don’t believe that the voters were making a statement against reform.  I think if that were the case you would not have seen Governor-elect Pence come out with a victory.  You would not have seen House Republicans come out with a super-majority in the House.”

Another possible explanation for Indiana’s pro-Pence, anti-Bennett vote, might be because of Bennett’s support of the Common Core Curriculum, a national education standard advocated by the Obama administration.  Bennett’s backing of Common Core may have alienated some of his base.

In the end, it should be noted that Indiana’s new, incoming education chief, Glenda Ritz, despite her victory has not been hired for the job of unilaterally setting Indiana’s education policies.  She will report to a state board of education, a board that will be appointed by Bennett’s friend, Governor-elect Mike Pence.

All the day’s news in education reform available at ChoiceMedia.TV.

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