Democrats Meet Their Nominees

By Max Resnik
By Eric Dutkiewicz

June 16, 2012 Updated Nov 5, 2013 at 4:03 AM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana's NewsCenter) - The 2012 Indiana Democratic Convention is underway. This year's event is being held in Fort Wayne.

Hundreds are took part in Indiana's 3rd District Democratic Caucus meeting in the Lincoln Financial Event Center at Parkview Field. Candidates for national office down to county offices made their pitch to local supporters.

Lt. Gov. candidate, State Senate Minority Leader Vi Simpson, D-Elletsville; U.S. Senate candidate, U.S. Rep Joe Donnelly, D-2nd District; Attorney General candidate Kay Fleming; and State Superintendent for Public Instruction candidate Glenda Ritz plan to speak.

Ritz touted her more than 30 years of teaching experience in the public school system as well as her time on the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. She also serves on the Board of Directors of the Indiana State Teachers Association.

Ritz says she was inspired to run based on two key decisions affecting schooling and students by current Indiana Superintendent for Public Instruction, Dr. Tony Bennett. Ritz says Bennett has put too much high-stakes testing for students in place that could hinder their ability to graduate. She points to the IREAD-3 assessment test administered to third-grade students as one example of those high-stakes tests. Under the IREAD-3 initiative, third-grade students who do not pass a reading assessment after two attempts have to re-take the third-grade.

Ritz also says that in order for students to graduate from high school, they must pass an Algebra I exam. She calls this another high-stakes test that clogs otherwise open pathways to life after school.

“In the State of Indiana, students must take—must pass—the Algebra I test in order to graduate with a diploma at the end of their graduation and because of that, students don’t have pathways. There’s only one pathway and that leads to a college, and a lot of our students need to have different pathways and different ways to graduate so that they can be productive citizens.”

Ritz says she also differs from Bennett when it comes to setting the agenda for the Department of Education. She accuses Bennett of creating broad sweeping changes to districts across the state without understanding the individual plight of districts.

“Tony Bennett has not really had the schools and the districts and the communities have any input into what needs to happen to improve their own communities and their own schools. And so I plan to run summits to make sure that we get information from the constituencies at the local level and they need to drive the agenda for the Department of Education."

Following an appearance from Ritz, members of the 3rd District Caucus heard from Attorney General Candidate Kay Fleming. Fleming’s background includes time as a clerk for two federal judges, the first attorney of the Indiana Gaming Commission and currently has her own law firm.

Fleming said her opponent, incumbent Attorney General Greg Zoeller, has done a good job to this point, but she believes more work can be done. Fleming says she would like to see more attention paid to the Department of Child Services and the Department of Education. She says she has also heard from constituents that the Do-Not-Call List has been a failure in some areas.

“Although I think Greg Zoeller is doing a good job, I think there's more that can be done. I think the children, the DCS system, needs an overhaul. Education system needs and overhaul. And I just think there are things—the office could be run more efficiently.”

When asked what specifically she would like to see change as it relates to the Department of Education, Fleming said she would need to sit down with Ritz to examine the issues.

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