Indiana News

Bennett Applies To Be Florida Schools Chief

Soon to be ex-Indiana school superintendent looks to continue reform agenda in Florida

12/3/2012

The man about to leave as state School Superintendent in Indiana will seek his next job in the South.

Tony Bennett says he has applied to be Florida's next education commissioner, a position that unlike Indiana, is not filled by voters. Bennett is one of more than 50 applicants for the job, but he is expected to be a leading candidate given that he favors education reforms that have long been popular among Republican leaders in Florida.

Bennett is close to former Florida governor Jeb Bush and spoke at an education reform conference organized by Bush in Washington D.C. last week. Bennett was also picked to be this year's head of Chiefs for Change, the group of reform-minded school superintendents put together by Bush's Foundation for Excellence in Education. While Bennett's name was not on a list of finalists available after the deadline to apply this past Friday, a source told 93 WIBC that Bennett submitted his application later in the day on Friday. Florida's state board of education is expected to name a new commissioner on December 12th.

Bennett was defeated for re-election as Superintendent of Public Instruction by Democrat Glenda Ritz last month. Ritz is a longtime educator who, along with many of her fellow Indiana teachers, vehemently opposed Bennett's reform agenda, which includes taxpayer-funded vouchers for private schools and an A-to-F grading system for schools, reforms that were pioneered by Bush in Florida.

Ritz was one of the original plaintiffs in the lawsuit challenging Indiana's school voucher system, where taxpayer dollars are used to allow parents who meet income requirements to send their child to any of 289 private schools approved for the program by the Department of Education. Teachers backed by their union, the Indiana State Teachers Association, say the program violates the state Constitution because many of the voucher schools are affiliated with churches or other religious groups. Ritz removed her name from the lawsuit after her election, but she remains supportive of its goals. The Indiana Supreme Court is currently considering a challenge to the law.

@WIBC_RaySteele

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