Tony Bennett as Florida schools chief?


Tony Bennett, Indiana’s ousted schools superintendent

 Members of the Florida Board of Education are interested in offering the job of state schools superintendent to Tony Bennett, the Indiana schools chief who just got ousted by voters, people who know the thinking of board members tell me.

This isn’t a big surprise.  Bennett’s reform agenda has been strongly influenced by Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor who pioneered market-based school reform in the Sunshine State and has been selling it around the country.  Bennett was picked by Bush to be the 2012 head of  Chiefs for Change, the group of reform-minded state school superintendents put together by Bush and his Foundation for Excellence in Education.

In fact last year Florida was interested in Bennett to replace Eric Smith as superintendent, but Gerard Robinson, another member of Chiefs for Change, got the job. He resigned last August after a series of blunders involving  the state’s highly criticized standardized test-based accountability system.

Another leading contender from the dozens of candidates for the superintendency in Florida is Hanna Skandera, New Mexico’s public education secretary-designate and vice chair of Chiefs for Change, the sources said.

Parent coalitions in Florida that oppose Bush-style reform started communicating by text and email shortly after Bennett’s defeat became clear to develop a strategy to stop him from coming to their state as superintendent.

Some Florida opponents of Bush-style education reform say they would like to see the interim superintendent, veteran educator Pam Stewart, to keep the job, but it’s not clear whether she would want to and she apparently isn’t at the top of the decision-makers list for the position.

 As superintendent in Indiana, Bennett pushed through the state takeover of struggling schools, new teacher evaluations linked to standardized test scores, a statewide voucher program, the expansion of charter schools, the adoption of the Common Core State Standards, and a system to give A through F grades to schools, as pioneered in Florida by Bush. The teacher who defeated him, Glenda Ritz, opposes just about all of this — though there are certain things she can’t turn back, such as the voucher law.

 

Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.
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Valerie Strauss | November 8, 2012