The Tony Bennett Ouster Debate Continues

The debate continues.  You may remember Matthew Ladner called anti-common core activists in Indiana a bunch of yahoos since they helped defeat incumbent Republican Tony Bennett in the Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction race.  Erin Tuttle, who for a “yahoo” writes quite well :), wrote in the Ft. Wayne Journal-Gazette:

The Bennett fiasco brought an exceptionally nasty rebuke from Matthew Ladner, policy adviser to Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education. Opponents of Common Core, Ladner wrote at a popular blog, “have revealed themselves to be unsophisticated ya-hoos (sic).” A little further on, Ladner repeats the thought if not his own spelling by referring to “right-wing Hoosier yayhoos (sic).” In explaining Bennett’s loss, Rick Hess at the American Enterprise Institute was more civil in his disdain for Indiana voters. He advocates for this “reform agenda” but recognizes the truth that it does “not appeal to middle-class and suburban voters.”

Elitists just don’t believe in the American Experiment. Ladner, like Bennett, doesn’t want to listen to the people because he has no faith in them. That skepticism makes them look elsewhere.

It’s no surprise that at the root of it all, Bennett, Hess and Bush are all funded, or otherwise connected to groups funded by, the same elitists who spawned Obama’s reform agenda. But on any one issue, you can’t have two masters. You can’t look to the federal government and the people of Indiana. That’s where federalism comes in.

Now the Indiana legislature and Gov.-elect Mike Pence have a choice to make. Will they look to the people or will they look to Washington and the special interests?

As for Ladner and his ilk, I note that long ago, the British disdainfully called the patriots “Yankee Doodles,” and they mocked George Washington as an ignoramus. So go ahead. Call me a yahoo. But if you paint my portrait, make sure you show me holding the Declaration of Independence in one hand and the Constitution in the other.

Matthew Ladner responded to her article:

Now the writer also makes her case against Tony along the way. “With the advent of President Bush’s No Child Left Behind in 2001, followed by President Obama’s Race to the Top, Common Core and NCLB waiver programs, we have been under constant pressure to surrender education decision-making to Washington and its trade association partners. Every aspect of voter disdain can be traced to the requirements imposed by federal programs such as the Race to the Top Fund Assessment Grant and the NCLB waiver.”

So the people of Indiana rose up in long-suffering anger regarding federal interference in schools and chose to take it out on Tony Bennett. This is plausible if we take “the people” to mean “the writer” but not so much otherwise.

Tony didn’t have anything to do with NCLB, and Indiana pulled out of the Race to the Top competition. I’d be willing to wager by left big-toe that if we administered a survey to the Indiana public and asked them to explain the elements of Indiana’s NCLB waiver that all but a small percentage would likely reply “what NCLB waiver?”  or something similar. People are rational actors and the vast majority of them won’t make time in their lives to learn anything more about NCLB waivers than studying Mayan hieroglyphs absent some good reason to do so. I’m also willing to bet that the new Superintendent will lose her real or imagined federalist fervor and choose not to nullify the waiver so as to have almost every public school in Indiana facing NCLB sanctions.

 A few points to make here in response to Matthew Ladner.

  1. Indiana is a Race to the Top grantee as a member of the PARCCS. asessment consortium which was awarded a RTTT Fund Assessment grant.   You can read their MOU right here (pg. 284).
  2. Bennett’s request for a NCLB waiver while your average person may not have known about the waiver they certainly didn’t like the results.
  3. If Glenda Ritz abandons Federalism she can then be voted out as well.  Also Laudner seems to forget that with Governor-Elect Pence in place and with Indiana having a Republican legislature it is unlikely that any reforms initiated will be undone, especially if it means more Federal regulations – not that the NCLB waiver didn’t come with Federal strings attached.
  4. Insiders recently polled have a different take on the meaning of Tony Bennett’s defeat than Matthew Ladner does.

6 thoughts on “The Tony Bennett Ouster Debate Continues

  1. “Ladner” — not Laudner — is against Common Core.
    He is calling the republicans who voted out Tony Bennett yayhoos, rightfully so, because they threw out the most reform minded superintendent in the country — who ushered through the most school choice, teacher, and union reforms than anywhere else — for a union hack who will spend her time slow-gaming the amazing reforms that he helped pass. So yes, Y-A-Y-H-O-O-S, congrats on the “win!” Oh but wait, she can be voted out in 4 years. Would you like your 4 years of Obama back or would you chalk that up as an experiment too?

    1. Never said Ladner was in favor of the Common Core. Comparing Glenda Ritz to Obama is apples and oranges. I personally consider the election a mixed bag – Bennett should not have embraced the Common Core which is antithetical to reform. Also I’m a school choice advocate, but his reforms were going to lead to private schools having to eventually adopt the Common Core not something that I would favor.

  2. Too bad you missed (or ignored) some of the real reasons for Dr. Tony Bennett’s defeat in Indiana. I’m not especially fond of the way you seem to dismiss Indiana voters as corn-gnashing peasants. Common Core was only ONE reason he lost, but while I mention it, Indiana’s standards were more rigorous, but somehow Bennett’s own judgment told him to stick with CC.

    Outsiders and so-called reformers don’t have a clue about the simmering anger Hoosier voters had regarding Dr. Bennett’s poorly run Indiana Department of Education, not to mention his total disdain for teachers. The voters against Bennett were not just teachers, and not just union “hacks” as you so eloquently put it–they were citizens who had a major problem with Bennett’s brand of reform.

    As a long time teacher, I was deeply offended when Bennett spoke about “good teachers but bad unions.” This and many other disrespectful polices led to a well-deserved backlash. Dr. Bennett continually disrespected teachers, so we paid him back with interest.

    By the way, if you or any reform organization ever expect to have any credibility with classroom teachers, then I suggest you work on collaborative approaches. Teachers with years in the classroom have a lot to offer when it comes to understanding student motivation (and lack of it). If all you can do is pontificate about what’s
    wrong with public education but you know nothing about what’s happening on the
    ground, then your views are as blinkered as Bennett’s. Get into a public school and substitute teach sometime–better yet, get into a troubled district and talk to some teachers and you’ll find that not one of them is against reform–but they are vehemently against reforms such as those espoused by Bennett.

    1. How exactly did I portray people who live in Indiana as corn-gnashing peasants? Did you mean to accuse Ladner of that? I didn’t do that. I used to live in Indiana, and my wife is from there. So while I don’t currently live in Indiana I’m not in the dark either.

      1. Thanks for setting me straight. My anger at Bennett blinded me has led to a lot of inattention lately…too much distraction, and not enough support at my job.

        With Indiana’s increased accountability measures, my school career has been miserable these past 3-4 years. When I leave the school building at 7:00 PM with more work to take home (most nights), there are usually 4-5 other teachers’ cars still in the lot. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and I’m still at my desk (check the time stamp).

        Teachers are hanging by a thread in Indiana, and Bennett seems to be the master of unintended consequences. Most teachers, like me, thought Bennett was out to get them, and he never went out of his way to prove us wrong.

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