Pharos-Tribune

State News

November 13, 2012

Ritz’s crew reaches reluctant legislators with social media

INDIANAPOLIS — Some of the same forces that used social media to defeat the Republican state schools superintendent are mobilizing their resources again, this time to send a message to GOP leaders to pay attention to the election results.

They’re flooding the email inboxes of some key legislators and policymakers with an online petition that asks them to “honor” the 1.3 million votes cast for Democrat Glenda Ritz in her upset win over GOP incumbent Tony Bennett.

The online petition drive was launched over the Veterans Day weekend by some pro-Ritz grassroots organizations, including a group called Republicans for Ritz.

It came in response to public statements made by Gov.-elect Mike Pence and GOP legislative leaders, who downplayed the significance of Ritz’s election and claimed their own victories as mandates for continuing with the sweeping education reforms championed by Bennett and locked into law by a Republican-controlled legislature.

By mid-Tuesday, more than 3,000 people had signed the online petition, triggering a flood of emails into the inboxes of legislators who sit on the General Assembly’s education committees and those belonging to the members of the policy-making State Board of Education.

Cathy Fuentes-Rohrer, a Bloomington mother of four school-aged children and Ritz supporter, helped launch the petition drive through the influential social media site, Change.org.

She did so, she said, because she was “astounded” by the comments made by Republican leaders last week. The day after the election, Pence said Indiana voters delivered a “strong affirmation of the progress on education reform in this state” by keeping GOP legislative majorities.

“I thought, ‘You’re trying to take away our voice when we just raised it,’” said Fuentes-Rohrer. “It was a clear to us we had to keep the momentum going.”

The online petition, which can be found on several sites, including that of the Northeast Friends of Public Education at neifpe.blogspot.com, starts by reminding voters that Ritz won more votes than Pence did. It goes on to say that voters rejected the “top-down, corporate reform model imposed by the state.”

Fuentes-Rohrer is a self-professed liberal Democrat who chairs the Indiana Coalition for Public Education of Monroe County and South Central Indiana, an organization that used its strong Facebook presence to connect with other like-minded grassroots organizations across the state.

They helped generate an anti-Bennett message that resonated with voters such as Sharon Kain, president of the Cass County Republican Women’s organization. Kain is a self-described conservative and ardent supporter of Mitt Romney and Richard Mourdock, the GOP’s losing presidential and Senate candidates, respectively.

“I did everything I could to defeat Tony Bennnett,” Kain said in an email to the CNHI Statehouse Bureau. Kain’s reasoning: She has a daughter who is a teacher and a husband who is a school superintendent. “Both have been extremely unhappy with the way education reforms have been handled,” she said.

Ritz is a schoolteacher, a political newcomer and a former Republican who switched parties to take on Bennett. She billed her campaign as a referendum on sweeping education-reform legislation implemented by Bennett, including vouchers for private schools, merit pay for teachers and more high-stakes testing for students.

With a campaign budget less than one-fifth of what Bennett raised, she and her campaign staff tapped into the sentiments of unhappy teachers and school administrators across the state and made the most of social media.

State Sen. Jean Leising, a Republican from Oldenburg who backed the major education-reform legislation, had 1,500 online petitions in her in-box when she opened her email Tuesday morning.

That caught her attention, as did Ritz’ win. She’s not ready to jettison the reform legislation, she said, but she’s also not ready to dismiss its critics: “I think in the next session you’re going to see legislators saying, ‘Let’s look at what’s working and what’s not working.’ ”

That’s what retired schoolteacher Phyllis Bush of Fort Wayne was hoping for when she got involved in the online petition drive. Bush, who helped start the Northeast Friends of Public Education, said the reforms that have come down over the past four years have been “too much, too soon.”

“There have been all these demands placed on teachers and students, without much evidence they were really working,” Bush said. “Along with parents who were seeing the impact on their children, they were starting to revolt.”

Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse for the CNHI newspapers in Indiana. She can be reached at maureen.hayden@indianamediagroup.com.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
State News
  • Court rules prison agency mistreated former Pendleton counselor INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A federal appeals court has ruled that Indiana's prison agency mistreated a female employee when it shrugged off her complaints about workers having sex on her desk and later fired her for having an affair with an official. The ap

    July 23, 2014

  • Complaint ends teacher prayer in western Indiana school district TERRE HAUTE (AP) — A western Indiana school district is telling teachers and other employees they can't lead prayers during school-sponsored event. The decision by the Vigo County School Corp. in Terre Haute follows a complaint made to the Freedom fr

    July 23, 2014

  • Lawmakers approve pair of new license plates INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A panel of state lawmakers approved new license plates recognizing the Indy 500 and Abraham Lincoln under a new system clamping down on the number of special license plates on the road. Members of the Legislature's transportation

    July 23, 2014

  • Indiana Veterans Hall of Fame seeks nominations INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A new hall of fame for Indiana military veterans is seeking nominations for its first class of inductees. The Indiana Military Veterans Hall of Fame says it expects to induct the first honorees around Veterans Day at Fort Benjamin

    July 23, 2014

  • Gay couples' lawyers object to full-court hearing INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Attorneys on either side of a lawsuit over Indiana’s overthrown gay marriage ban are wrangling over how many federal judges should hear the state’s appeal, a technical issue that could make a big difference.Those representing gay

    July 23, 2014

  • NWS - KT072214 - Ryan Ledbetter mugshot - CLG [Duplicate] Bunker Hill councilman arrested for firing gun BUNKER HILL – A member of the Bunker Hill Town Council was arrested Saturday after police say he broke a no-contact order with his children’s mother and fired a gun inside a trailer park near Peru. Indiana State Police responded to the Woodland Hill

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Lowe's plans 1,000-worker Indianapolis call center INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Home-improvement retailer Lowe's says it will open a new call center in Indianapolis that could have up to 1,000 employees in the next couple years. The North Carolina-based retailer announced Tuesday that it would spend about $20

    July 22, 2014

  • 2 men die in separate apparent drownings near Rockville and Morocco ROCKVILLE, Ind. (AP) — State conservation officers say two Indiana men have died in separate apparent drownings. Officers say 29-year-old Terry Johnson of Veedersburg died after divers pulled him Monday from Raccoon Lake near the Parke County town of

    July 22, 2014

  • Former Hartford City councilman sentenced for child molesting HARTFORD CITY (AP) — A former northeastern Indiana city councilman and retired teacher has been sentenced to 10 years in prison on child molesting charges. A Blackford County judge ordered the sentence on Monday against 66-year-old John Adams. He ple

    July 22, 2014

  • 6 Indiana projects get national humanities grants INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Three universities in Indiana have been awarded a total of $1.25 million in grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The endowment announced Monday that Indiana University's Indianapolis branch campus is receiving $1

    July 22, 2014

Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Poll

The Pence administration continues to cut Indiana agency budgets despite a state surplus of $2 billion. Is this wise management of state funds?

Yes
No
Not sure
     View Results
Featured Ads
AP Video
Broncos Owner Steps Down Due to Alzheimer's US, UN Push Shuttle Diplomacy in Mideast Trump: DC Hotel Will Be Among World's Best Plane Crashes in Taiwan, Dozens Feared Dead Republicans Hold a Hearing on IRS Lost Emails Raw: Mourners Gather As MH17 Bodies Transported Robot Parking Valet Creates Stress-free Travel Raw: MH17 Bodies Arrive in Netherlands Raw: Fight Breaks Out in Ukraine Parliament Disabled Veterans Memorial Nearing Completion Last Mass Lynching in U.S. Remains Unsolved Home-sharing Programs Help Seniors Ex-NYC Mayor: US Should Allow Flights to Israel Clinton: "AIDS-Free Generation Within Our Reach" Judge Ponders Overturning Colo. Gay Marriage Ban Airlines Halt Travel to Israel Amid Violence Police Probing Brooklyn Bridge Flag Switch
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.