In what his opponent called a “referendum” on Indiana’s education overhaul, GOP incumbent Tony Bennett’s re-election bid for a second term as state superintendent fell short after he captured just 48 percent of the vote.
A former science teacher and schools administrator, Bennett won the post of Superintendent of Public Instruction in 2008, running as a Republican and garnering 51 percent of the vote. (Indiana is one of only 14 states where the state’s public schools chief is elected.) But Bennett lost in 2012 after Democrat Glenda Ritz organized a grassroots campaign through the Indiana State Teachers Association opposing his policies.
Bennett had been a critical force in moving forward education priorities of Gov. Mitch Daniels’ administration: school voucher programs, merit pay for teachers and expansion of charter schools, policies many teachers criticize. In his 2012 State of Education address, Bennett said he supported speeding up the timeline for state intervention in failing schools. But voters rejected his call for continued change.
Bennett’s unsuccessful re-election bid is likely to change the tone of education overhaul in Indiana, but it’s unclear what will happen elsewhere. Bennett’s success in pushing through these changes had raised his national profile and brought in large campaign contributions from across the country. Just weeks after Bennett lost the election to Ritz, the Florida State Board of Education offered him the Sunshine State’s top schools job.