Bennett Resigns As Florida Education Commissioner
Resignation comes after emails re: grade changes for some charter schools last year
Tony Bennett was the third Education Commissioner for Florida Governor Rick Scott in three years. His tenure turned out to be the shortest, but not because of anything that took place in the Sunshine State.
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The former State School Superintendent in Indiana resigned from his Florida job on Thursday, three days after emails released by the Associated Press from September 2012 showed that Bennett's education department worked to alter the state's A-F grading formula. The work began after it was discovered that Christel House, a charter school funded by philanthropist Christel DeHaan, would receive a grade of C for the 2011-12 school year.
DeHaan had given thousands in campaign contributions to Bennett - as well as several other Republican and Democratic politicians. But the emails suggested Bennett and members of his staff were worried because Christel House had been touted as a model school that would receive a grade of A even after the formula for the A-F system was altered by Bennett's department last year.
Bennett says he was not pressured into stepping down. "Governor Scott has been incredibly supportive and encouraged me to continue in my role as commissioner. The decision to resign is mine and mine alone," said Bennett.
The former superintendent also blamed the situation on what he called "malicious, unfounded reports out of Indiana," that he characterized as "politically motivated." Bennett talked about "the news of the past two or three weeks", apparently a reference to another story based on emails obtained through public records requests. An email exchange released by the AP featured a conversation between Bennett and then-governor Mitch Daniels. It concerned Daniels's wish that the views of liberal historian Howard Zinn not be taught in K-through-12 schools.
"I will formally request that the Inspector General for the state of Indiana investigate this issue," Bennett said, meaning the changing of the charter schools' grades. "That way we can put this issue to rest because, frankly, I am fearless about what they will find."