House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President Pro Tem David Long opened discussion about the way Indiana grades its public schools Friday. That’s a welcome change from what the two were saying after last November’s election.
Immediately after the votes came in, both Bosma and Long suggested the election of Glenda Ritz as state superintendent of public instruction would make little difference. They noted the same voters who had elected Ritz had also bolstered the Republican majority in the Indiana General Assembly, sending back the same lawmakers who had pushed through the reforms some Ritz supporters were unhappy about.
Neither Bosma nor Long backed off his support for laws that created vouchers for private schools, tied teacher pay to student test scores and expanded high-stakes testing for students, but both eventually offered a more conciliatory tone.
After Ritz upset incumbent state superintendent Tony Bennett, Long described teachers as heroic. He said they needed to be paid more for the work they do, and he agreed with Bosma that teachers were feeling demoralized in the wake of Bennett’s reforms.
“I’m not in any way pulling back my support for any of the education reforms …,” Long added. “But they will evolve, and everyone at the table will participate.”
That’s really all we can ask, that legislators keep an open mind about the criticism leveled against some of the reforms — particularly the A-to-F school grading system — and that they listen to those who helped to engineer Ritz’s surprising victory.
Business-as-usual clearly is not what the voters who elected Ritz were hoping for.
They might not expect the reforms to be rejected entirely, but they do at least want Indiana’s leaders to slow down and take stock of what’s working and what’s not.
Only Ritz was elected strictly on the basis of her positions on education. Her supporters have a right to have their voices heard. Lawmakers will ignore those voices at their own peril.