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Bennett applies to be Florida schools chief

December 3, 2012
Bennett

Rejected by voters in Indiana, state schools chief Tony Bennett wants to take his education reform agenda to Florida.

Bennett has applied to be Florida’s commissioner of education, according to a statement released by his office Monday morning. That position is similar to the Indiana’s superintendent of public instruction, the job that Bennett has held for the past four years.

But Florida’s job is an appointed one, whereas Indiana’s position is elected. Bennett, a Republican, lost his re-election bid to Democrat Glenda Ritz, a school librarian, on Nov. 6—an outcome that stunned political observers.

“After careful consideration, I have decided to submit an application for Florida’s Commissioner of Education position,” Bennett said in a statement. “The Sunshine State’s consistent commitment to providing all students a top-notch education is impressive and inspiring. I look forward to participating in the next stages of this process.”

The Florida State Board of Education hires the state’s education commissioner. According to the Orlando Sentinel, the board is set to interview finalists on Dec. 11 and could pick its commissioner at its meeting the next day.

Bennett oversaw a sweeping overhaul of education laws and policies in Indiana. That legislative success earned Bennett nationwide attention, and it was widely speculated that he might be tapped by another state to lead similar efforts there.

Florida was a pioneer in many of the policies that Bennett championed, which included an A-F grading system for schools and a rapid expansion of charter schools.

But Indiana pushed even further in some areas—such as creating a statewide voucher program that has grown faster than any other program in U.S. history. Indiana also rolled back teachers’ collective bargaining rights to allow for annual evaluations based in part on student test scores and systems of merit pay.

Florida’s education reforms were spearheaded by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who now supports similar work in other states by backing the national group Chiefs for Change. Bennett is a prominent member of Chiefs for Change.

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