Bennett applies to be Florida schools chief

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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.


  • Interesting Comments
    Back in the 50's Indiana's Public Education System was setup as a feeder system for the various manufacturing sector jobs available in Indiana. Starting in the 80's, manufacturing jobs left the state, in an effort to break the strong grip of unions, and to increase the profits of the numerous companies that moved manufacturing offshore, or to right to work states. The Education System soon fell behind and never caught up. Today, our public schools are preparing students for jobs that pay minimum wage and get students ready fo ISTEP Exams. Many students leaving for college are prepared for the next level of education, while the majority are not prepared at all. Rather than argue this point, check with colleges statewide and hear specific concerns firsthand. Schools are rewarded for the success of graduation, and I question the results currently reported statewide. I do not accept that the problem is solely teacher related, or union related, and that discussion can be quickly addressed by analyzing parental involvement from the start. I have witnessed parents never missing a Little League game, Swim Meet, or Pop Warner Football game, yet missing every opportunity to sit at the kitchen table and make sure their children are understanding classroom assignments. My position is not as parent, but rather as tutor. I have seen firsthand the success of students who are properly supported by teacher and tutor, and question the missing support of parents. When I recommend that parents visit classrooms and tutoring sessions in an effort to understand the process and learn to help their children with homework assignments, parents always have a reason for missing the opportunity to help their children. I am not looking for public debate in this matter. The voters who elected a change of direction replaced one person, and that person sits on the tip of the iceberg. For all the doubters I have an assignment. Get out and talk with companies currently looking for new employees in manufacturing sectors requiring math and reading comprehension. Then talk with companies currently assessing a new factory location in Indiana. Companies are not concerned about unions, they are concerned if a qualified and educated labor pool is available in Indiana.
  • Mitch
    I used to support Mitch Daniels until his stance on education. He and Mr. Bennett not advocates for public education. Bennett was not welcome into schools nor did he try to visit. Daniels never stepped foot inside a school. He has no clue what an educators role is in the classroom. It's not the same as a board room, Mr. "Big Pants". I hope Purdue moves him out as quickly as they tried to shove their agenda down Indiana taxpayers throat.
  • B'bye Bennett
    ...and don't let the barn door hit you in your corporate crony capitalist butt on the way out...I'm sure fellow Repugnant white collar criminal Rick Skelator Scott will welcome you as a brother in crime(and he'll probably show you how to grift off the FL taxpayers too!)
  • Better Job
    Good luck Dr. Bennett. Certainly anywhere has to be a better place for you than Indiana. We have smart kids here, too, but they are grossly underserved. Look what happened --- a little competition in the form of vouchers -- and the union had you killed (figuratively speaking, of course). All just to protect the rank and file union members, who do not give a rat's rear end about improving anything! I know! Let's furnish them with I-Pads, so we don't even have to teach them anymore! ISTA loves that I'm sure. Even my college graduate aged kids think Indiana is way behind educationally.

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