“The Florida Education Association is disappointed and disheartened at the selection of Tony Bennett to be Florida’s education commissioner. Bennett proved to be divisive in his tenure in the same position in Indiana and was voted out of office last month in the conservative state. 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. In Indiana, teachers and education professionals felt he was blaming them for all of the state’s education woes.
“We certainly hope he has learned his lessons by being rejected in Indiana. But we’re skeptical. This decision does not indicate that the State Board of Education and Gov. Rick Scott understand that parents, teachers and those who question a flawed reform agenda deserve their voices heard and their insights and expertise incorporated into Florida’s strategy for public education. The Board and the governor once again have ignored the parents and teachers of our state.”
Background and related articles:
Bennett has been a critical force in advancing the education priorities of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush which Gov. Mitch Daniels’ also supported. Under Bennett, Indiana saw a huge expansion of charter schools, voucher programs, teacher merit pay and policies many teachers criticize. Bennett has called Bush the nation's leading expert on education reform. The former Gov. helped Bennett launch Chiefs for Change, an organization that advocates for many of Bush’s policies, including: setting high standards for students; holding teachers and schools accountable; and expanding both public and private school choices.
In his 2012 State of Education address, Bennett shared his support for speeding up the timeline for state intervention in failing schools. But voters rejected his call for continued change.
In November, he lost a reelection bid for a second term to Democrat Glenda Ritz who organized a grassroots campaign through the Indiana State Teachers Association opposing his policies. Some are calling his defeat a “referendum” on Indiana’s education overhaul.