As we get ready to enter the election season full swing, I would like to draw your attention to the race for Superintendent of Public Instruction (SPI) featuring incumbent Glenda Ritz and challenger Jennifer McCormick, Superintendent of Yorktown Schools in Delaware County. Obviously, Ritz shocked a lot of people with her victory over Tony Bennett back in 2012. She won in part, because she was able to peal off a lot of suburban and donut county voters that was not crazy about Bennett. This time, Ritz may find herself in the same place as Bennett when it comes to the African-American community, or at the very least, when Blacks go to the polls they should think twice about voting for her.
First of all, Ritz is no fan of vouchers or charter schools. Throughout her entire career as SPI, she has done everything possible to undermine both programs. For example, recently Ritz unveiled her plan to expand early childhood education across the state to every 4-year-old. While it may seem like a good idea, it really isn’t once you dig a little deeper. She wants to pay for it by reducing school choice for African-American students of limited incomes. Ritz says she can save money by eliminating the voucher rule that allows any kid to attend a voucher school and replacing it with a previous rule that said the kid had to attend a failing public school for a year.
Think about that. Universal pre-k paid for on the backs of either your children or the kids of your friends, family members or maybe a neighbor or coworker. Imagine you’re a parent who is working to get your kid in a school that works best for them, and that voucher is really helping you out and Ritz not only wants to take that voucher away from you, but use the money so a wealthy family in Geist or Hamilton County can use it to pay for pre-k which they can already afford 10 times over. Are you kidding me?
And why stop there? Let’s take a look at Title I money which is used to help low-income kids get a better education. Well, last September the U.S. Department of Education informed Ritz’s office, the Indiana Department of Education, that the method they were using to figure out Title I disbursements to schools was inconsistent with the law. And to make life even more fun, one of the errors Ritz’s office made was incorrectly applying a hold harmless provision to charter schools, which caused some disadvantaged students to lose out on more than $2 million. The Department of Education eventually fixed the error, but it was too late for schools to use the money. Does this sound like a friend to you?
And if we really want the icing on the cake, Ritz’s own former right-hand man is caught up in an ethics scandal. The Associated Press reported last week that David Galvin, Ritz’s former communications director, has gone to work for a company called N2N, a digital marketing firm, just two months after the company got a more than $400,000 contract with Ritz’s office. And not only did Galvin not fully vet things with the state before taking the job as the rules require, we’re told he was the one who reportedly sold the idea of using N2N’s services to the superintendent. It would be funny had Galvin not been the guy who went mining for old Tony Bennett e-mails a few years ago, because he had an axe grind. If Ritz is hiring these kind of people to run her office, how can you trust her to help develop policy to educate your children?
Isn’t it enough she wants to keep Title I dollars from poor Black children at charter schools, or for that matter, take money from them so wealthy and upper middle families can get free early childhood education? Apparently not.
Abdul-Hakim Shabazz is an attorney and political commentator. You can express your outrage to him at email@example.com.