The Democrat's win was seen as a victory for Indiana teachers who have felt Bennett blamed them for school failures. Many educators have opposed changes under Bennett that include expanding charter school access, limiting teachers' collective bargaining and basing teacher pay raises on annual evaluations.
Bennett also pushed for the state's private school voucher program and oversaw the first state takeover of troubled public schools.
"I have no regrets," Bennett said in his concession speech, while acknowledging that some of his policies had proven unpopular.
Ritz pledged to roll back many of Bennett's changes, including a reading test that third-graders must pass to advance to fourth grade.
"I think the voters have been really clear that we want an education agenda, not a political agenda for our kids," she said.
Ritz said parents, not just teachers, disliked Bennett's changes, particularly a move toward private takeovers of public schools that repeatedly fail performance grades based largely on standardized tests.
"Parents around Indiana were concerned about high stakes testing and the A-F grade system that was imposed on us," she said.
"Teaching to the test, as we've been relegated to doing, is not providing students with a good education," Ritz added.
Ritz is an elementary school library media specialist in Indianapolis.