Florida Education Commissioner doctors grades for charter schools, gets caught, quits 'with head held high'
Tony Bennett's terrible, no-good week
Published: August 7, 2013
AMOUNT CONTRIBUTED TO FORMER FLORIDA EDUCATION COMMISSIONER TONY BENNETT’S FAILED INDIANA CAMPAIGN BY CHARTER SCHOOL CHRISTEL HOUSE ACADEMY OWNER CHRISTEL DEHAAN BETWEEN 1998 AND 2012. DEHAAN DONATED MORE THAN $2.8 MILLION TO THE REPUBLICAN PARTY IN THAT TIME
ESTIMATED ANNUAL SALARY FOR BENNETT. HE ONLY EARNED $79,400 IN HIS FORMER POSITION AS INDIANA SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION
NUMBER OF FLORIDA SCHOOLS RECEIVING AN “F” GRADE THIS YEAR AFTER THE SCORES WERE PADDED. USING ORIGINAL CALCULATIONS, THERE WOULD HAVE BEEN 262
“HE IS A CHAMPION OF THE TESTING MANIA, UNCHECKED EXPANSION OF CHARTER SCHOOLS AND VOUCHER PROGRAMS AND HAS PROVEN TO ADVANCE THE JEB BUSH EDUCATION AGENDA THAT HAS DRAWN FIRE FROM TEACHERS, PARENTS AND EXPERTS IN THE FIELD. THAT’S THE SAME APPROACH THAT HAS LED TO A FLAWED AND CHAOTIC SYSTEM IN FLORIDA THAT HAS FRUSTRATED PARENTS AND TEACHERS ALIKE.”
– FLORIDA EDUCATION ASSOCIATION PRESIDENT ANDY FORD IN A STATEMENT FOLLOWING BENNETT’S APPOINTMENT IN DECEMBER 2012
Sources: stateimpact.npr.org, Tampa Bay Times
DRIVEN TO DISTRACTION
Though there may not be much polite call for gravedancing over last week’s big Floridian education clusterfuck – it is, after all, children and teachers who will suffer in the long run – the sheer magnitude of the foolishness at hand does lend itself to some playground-level
First of all, in a panic that maybe its whole escalating “teach to the test” ethos was going to actually produce a ton of failing schools (including some beloved charters) this year, the Florida Board of Education went ahead with a plan to soften the blow, creating a safety net to allow a more presentable race to the middle. But even with a magical new algorithm installed, the number of “D” and “F” level schools rose, leaving many wondering what the grades even meant anymore.
Well, apparently they mean quite a bit, at least in political capital. Enter Tony Bennett – the guy who always seems to be photographed while selling a used car; recent political appointee to the Florida Education Commissioner position by Gov. Rick Scott; not the gray-coiffed crooner – and his terrible, no-good week. See, it turns out that Bennett, an avowed disciple of the Jeb Bush dollar-sign-eye “reform” and “choice” religion that basically just wants to punish unions and corporatize education, isn’t necessarily an honest man with a big heart made of kid-love. Surprise!
It all fell apart for Bennett last week when the Associated Press revealed emails that, in pretty clear terms, show that in his former post as an education leader in Indiana – a post he was voted out of despite huge out-of-state Republican support in 2012 – Bennett doctored the overall school grade for at least one charter (and did so possibly more than once) in a way that appears to reflect some pay-for-play. The school in question, Christel House Academy, mystically bounced from a “C” grade to an “A” grade, apparently at Bennett’s behest.
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