Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

November 23, 2012

Ritz must be heard


Kokomo — THE ISSUE: Legislative leaders now are willing to talk about the way in which education reforms have been put into place.

OUR VIEW: Glenda Ritz, the woman who upset the state’s incumbent schools chief, deserves a seat at the table.

House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President Pro Tem David Long say they’re open to discussion about the way some of the sweeping reforms to public education have been put into practice. That’s a welcome change from what the two were saying immediately after the election.

Both repeated their earlier pledges not to roll back the reforms already locked into law, but they opened the door for more discussion in light of Democrat Glenda Ritz’s upset of incumbent Republican Tony Bennett as superintendent of public instruction.

Immediately after the election, both Bosma and Long had suggested Ritz’s election 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 did offer a more conciliatory tone.

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 the 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, 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 take their feet off the gas. It’s time to slow down and take stock of what’s working and what’s not.

It is true perhaps that voters sent a mixed message by electing Ritz while putting Republicans in charge of the rest of state government. The fact is, though, only Ritz was elected strictly on the basis of her positions on education. Her supporters have a right to have their voices heard. If the election just ended is any indication, lawmakers will ignore those voices at their own peril.