There weren’t any colossal, national‐attention‐grabbing upsets last night. There was, however, a result in Indiana that could have national implications: highly favored superintendent of public instruction Tony Bennett was defeated by Democratic challenger Glenda Ritz. It could have national implications because Bennett is well‐known in education circles; helped enact the broadest — but also disturbingly regulated — school voucher program in the country; and is an ardent supporter of national curriculum standards.
This last matter is the most interesting, because a major reason Bennett might have lost yesterday was his bear hug of top‐down, national standards. Almost certainly the primary force behind Bennett’s defeat was organized teacher opposition, no doubt driven by his support of private school choice and “standards and accountability.” It could also be, however, that his embrace of de facto federal curriculum control lost him much‐needed support — support he would otherwise have had — from small‐government types. Indeed, not only does it seem likely, Bennett acknowledges as much in this election post mortem:
How does Bennett think Ritz pulled off what can fairly be described as a big upset? The Common Core State Standards plays a role. Bennett argued that Ritz — who is skeptical of the common core — used the standards to take away conservative voters who otherwise favored him. Many Republicans are critical of the common core because they say it smacks of too much federal involvement. Bennett, a big champion of the common standards, also said Ritz’s victory could jeopardize Indiana’s leading role in the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for Colleges and Careers, one of two state consortia working on assessments tied to the standards.
“I have some very serious concerns about the future of that program,” he said of the testing consortia. And when it came to common standards, Bennett said, “She did a very good job of appealing to the strong conservative base who had problems with the common core. So that’s another issue obviously.”
Yesterday, the grip of national curriculum standards loosened a little bit more.