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How Glenda Ritz Will Navigate The 'Choppy Waters' Of Statehouse Politics

By Kyle Stokes

(From StateImpact Indiana, January 24th, 2013)

Glenda Ritz faced down long odds in unseating a well-funded incumbent Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett, who outspent her five-to-one in the campaign.

As the first Democrat in nearly four decades to win Indiana’s top elected education post, Ritz’s next challenge is equally steep: navigate the tricky politics of the Republican-controlled statehouse.

“The waters are likely to be choppy and a bit turbulent,” Ritz’s chief of staff Craig Hartzer told StateImpact after her first week on the job. “But I’m very confident the new superintendent will be able to put her positions forward in a very persuasive way.”

Though the path before Ritz is still fraught with pitfalls — lawmakers are still pondering two proposals that would limit Ritz’s powers — even some conservatives say Ritz has started off her second term on the right foot.

Senate Education Committee Chair Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, said Wednesday his panel would not hear any bills “that reflect in any way against our new superintendent.”

Private school voucher advocate Robert Enlow says he remains concerned about the fact Ritz oversees school choice programs she largely opposes. But he says the new Indiana Department of Education’s staff has taken a less aggressive stance than Ritz took on the campaign trail.

“There’s a difference between those people who would be on staff and say ‘We don’t like this, we’re not going to talk with you,’ and those who are saying, ‘Okay, we understand we have a duty to implement this program, let’s talk about how to do this reasonably.’ It sounds like there are some people we’re going to be able to talk to, and we’re excited about that,” says Enlow, the president of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice.

Read the full post here.