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Tony Bennett, Friend of School Vouchers, Foe of Unions, is Florida’s New Education Chief

| December 12, 2012

Apolitical, Tony Bennett is not. (Facebook)

The State Board of Education chose a rising star in the school-choice movement to be Florida’s next education commissioner Wednesday, sparking a blistering condemnation from the state’s main teachers union.

Tony Bennett, the superintendent of public instruction in Indiana, was unanimously tapped by the board at its December meeting. The position has been filled by interim Commissioner Pam Stewart since Gerard Robinson resigned last summer amid controversies surrounding Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test scores and the botched rollout of school grades.

Bennett had been mentioned for the job in 2011, when Robinson got it, but didn’t apply. The Indiana supervisor of public instruction is an elected position, and Bennett was defeated in his bid for re-election last month.

“I think we have a great opportunity to capture Florida’s moment,” Bennett told the board in brief remarks after he was selected.

In the resume he submitted to the board, Bennett boasted of spearheading “the most comprehensive education reform effort in 25 years” while in Indiana. The initiative introduced a voucher program and limited collective bargaining to pay and benefits.


Bennett also highlighted an increase of more than four percentage points in Indiana’s graduation rate and his decision to change the state’s school grading scale to a system using letter grades.
Board members pointed to Bennett’s experience and work on some of the same reform efforts that Florida is pushing, including a nationwide guideline for curriculum known as the common core standards, as an asset. Gov. Rick Scott also praised Bennett in a statement issued by his office.

“Tony has a great record of achievement in Indiana and I am confident he will be a tireless advocate for Florida’s students,” Scott said.

But the Florida Education Association blasted Bennett, saying he had an antagonistic relationship with teachers in Indiana.

“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,” FEA President Andy Ford said in a statement. “That’s the same approach that has led to a flawed and chaotic system in Florida that has frustrated parents and teachers alike.”

Democrats, many of whom have opposed elements of Florida’s education agenda in recent years, largely held their fire.

“I hope the choice the board made is the right one for Florida,” said House Minority Leader Perry Thurston, D-Plantation. “Florida deserves an education commissioner who puts public schools and public school students first.”

–Michael Peltier, News Service of Florida

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15 Responses for “Tony Bennett, Friend of School Vouchers, Foe of Unions, is Florida’s New Education Chief”

  1. Nancy N. says:

    Gov. Scott’s last import from Indiana worked so well (DOC secretary that “resigned” after multiple conflicts with Scott)…why not try another one?

  2. Stevie says:

    Decentralize the school system and remove the monopoly, give parents the freedom to choose where to send their children and reduce the risk of providing high profile centralized targets for domestic terrorism attempts.

    I don’t know of any profession where an analysis of worker performance by the employer is unheard of or unwarranted. Why should teachers get a free pass. Get rid of the bad ones and reward the good ones.

    • NortonSmitty says:

      Congratulations! I never thought anyone could tie the Wingnut Trifecta to our childrens education!

      Union bashing, Racism in the form of “Parental Choice” AND Terrorism in a mere two sentences! I’m impressed.

  3. Palmcoastconcernedcitizen says:

    Stevie,
    How about parents doing their job and raising their kids and making their children do homework. How is a teacher responsibile for your child not doing homework or the parents not having their children read at night as they are supposed to be doing?

    • Nancy N. says:

      I don’t know what ivory tower you live in, but some of us are so busy scrambling just to figure out how to put food on the table and keep a roof over our kid’s head that time for supervising homework and reading to kids is just something we don’t have a ton of.

  4. Jojo says:

    Just another reason to vote Scott out in two years before he ruins education all together in this State, Educators. students and teachers will be reprogrammed all over again. Hoosiers didn’t want him and Scott imports him. Vote this man out in two years before he destroys our State.

  5. BR says:

    Anyone who is excited about Tony Bennett needs to review his past. He was basically kicked out of his state. Lost his election by double digits to a unionized liberal in a super conservative state. Mr. Bennett is a horrible addition to our already dismal education environment. Rick Scott needs to go and so does Bennett.

  6. Lonewolf says:

    Teachers will soon feel the wrath of the crazy right wing.

  7. Kip Durocher says:

    “‘Bennett was defeated in his bid for re-election last month.”

    Another useless pol that could not get reelected by people who knew him.
    This is what scott gives us, rabid ideology driven lunatics. Just like himself.
    Just like the lunatic republican gang that is anti everything except stealing.

    Thanks to all you yahoos who gave us scott the criminal as a governor.

  8. NortonSmitty says:

    Once more, please think about the real reasons for FCAT, No Child Left Behind, Charter Schools and every other right-winger Republican proposal to “Improve” our childrens education. They don’t give a rats ass about our childrens education! If they did, the FCAT would include questions about History and Civics instead of just Math, Reading and Writing.

    Because the “Reforms” force teachers to spend all their time “Teaching the Test”, our kids do not know the history of this country, their rights under the constitution, the battles fought by their great and grandparents for justice in both the courts and the Labor movement, and the other various movements and rebellions that forced the Ruling Class to at least give them a minimal pretense to a fair deal in their lives. They are deprived of the knowledge of when and how they are getting screwed and what our forefathers did about it. But you can be sure they are indoctrinated to beg for any job where they can operate the machines and do the paperwork like obedient worker drones in a Bengali brothel. You think this is an accident?

    The bastards will never give up, and the appointment of this idealist loser Hoosier to oversee our kids education in Florida is proof of that.

  9. Stevie says:

    “Stevie,
    How about parents doing their job and raising their kids and making their children do homework. How is a teacher responsibile for your child not doing homework or the parents not having their children read at night as they are supposed to be doing? ”

    Yeah, I am all for it. How about parents getting married so kids have one mother and one father and stop the government from setting the stage to pay off single mothers to stay unmarried. How about the government cutting spending and taxes so at least one parent can stay home and take care of their children. That’s how it was when I was growing up. The school wasn’t Federalized and there was constant communication between teachers and parents. My parents were never prevented from taking me home when they wanted to. How would that be?

  10. Diego Miller says:

    Since 1968 academic test scores have showed a steady decline inspite of the unprecedented amount of money we have spent trying to solve the problem. I believe we have another Rick Scott puppet here who is out to destroy unions, and force his will on the system. Gov. Scott knows all about common core standards, donut shops, License plate manufacturing,medicare fraud and and living in the shadows of Baldimore.

  11. bq says:

    Two more years of Scott. Enough already!

  12. NortonSmitty says:

    Yea, test scores are declining. And they have been for quite some time I think. Here is something that somebody sent me a while ago that blew my socks off. Check out the test you had to pass to graduate the 8th grade in 1995:

    What it took to get an 8th grade education in 1895…

    Remember what our grandparents and great-grandparents stated that they only had an 8th grade education? Well, check this out. Could any of us have passed the 8th grade in 1895?

    This is the eighth-grade final exam from 1895 in Salina , Kansas , USA . It was taken from the original document on file at the Smokey Valley Genealogical Society
    And Library in Salina , and reprinted by the Salina Journal.

    8th Grade Final Exam: Salina , KS – 1895

    Grammar (Time, one hour)
    1. Give nine rules for the use of capital letters.
    2. Name the parts of speech and define those that have no modifications.
    3. Define verse, stanza and paragraph
    4. What are the principal parts of a verb? Give principal parts of ‘lie,”play,’and ‘run.’
    5. Define case; illustrate each case.
    6 What is punctuation? Give rules for principal marks of punctuation.
    7 – 10. Write a composition of about 150 words and show therein that you understand the practical use of the rules of grammar.

    Arithmetic (Time,1 hour 15 minutes)
    1. Name and define the Fundamental Rules of Arithmetic.
    2. A wagon box is 2 ft. Deep, 10 feet long, and 3 ft. Wide. How many bushels of wheat will it hold?
    3. If a load of wheat weighs 3,942 lbs., what is it worth at 50cts/bushel, deducting 1,050 lbs. For tare?
    4. District No 33 has a valuation of $35,000.. What is the necessary levy to carry on a school seven months at $50 per month, and have $104 for incidentals?
    5. Find the cost of 6,720 lbs. Coal at $6.00 per ton.
    6. Find the interest of $512.60 for 8 months and 18 days at 7 percent.
    7. What is the cost of 40 boards 12 inches wide and 16 ft. Long at $20 per metre?
    8. Find bank discount on $300 for 90 days (no grace) at 10 percent.
    9. What is the cost of a square farm at $15 per acre, the distance of which is 640 rods?
    10. Write a Bank Check, a Promissory Note, and a Receipt

    U.S. History (Time, 45 minutes)
    1. Give the epochs into which U.S. History is divided
    2. Give an account of the discovery of America by Columbus
    3. Relate the causes and results of the Revolutionary War.
    4. Show the territorial growth of the United States
    5. Tell what you can of the history of Kansas
    6. Describe three of the most prominent battles of the Rebellion.
    7. Who were the following: Morse, Whitney, Fulton , Bell , Lincoln , Penn, and Howe?
    8. Name events connected with the following dates: 1607, 1620, 1800, 1849, 1865.

    Orthography (Time, one hour)
    [Do we even know what this is??]
    1. What is meant by the following: alphabet, phonetic, orthography, etymology, syllabication
    2. What are elementary sounds? How classified?
    3. What are the following, and give examples of each: trigraph, subvocals, diphthong, cognate letters, linguals
    4. Give four substitutes for caret ‘U.’ (HUH?)
    5. Give two rules for spelling words with final ‘e.’ Name two exceptions under each rule.
    6. Give two uses of silent letters in spelling. Illustrate each.
    7. Define the following prefixes and use in connection with a word: bi, dis-mis, pre, semi, post, non, inter, mono, sup.
    8. Mark diacritically and divide into syllables the following, and name the sign that indicates the sound: card, ball, mercy, sir, odd, cell, rise, blood, fare, last.
    9. Use the following correctly in sentences: cite, site, sight, fane, fain, feign, vane , vain, vein, raze, raise, rays.
    10. Write 10 words frequently mispronounced and indicate pronunciation by use of diacritical marks
    And by syllabication.

    Geography (Time, one hour)
    1 What is climate? Upon what does climate depend?
    2. How do you account for the extremes of climate in Kansas ?
    3. Of what use are rivers? Of what use is the ocean?
    4. Describe the mountains of North America
    5. Name and describe the following: Monrovia , Odessa , Denver , Manitoba , Hecla, Yukon , St. Helena, Juan Fernandez, Aspinwall and Orinoco
    6. Name and locate the principal trade centers of the U.S. Name all the republics of Europe and give the capital of each..
    8. Why is the Atlantic Coast colder than the Pacific in the same latitude?
    9. Describe the process by which the water of the ocean returns to the sources of rivers.
    10. Describe the movements of the earth. Give the inclination of the earth.

    Notice that the exam took FIVE HOURS to complete.

    Gives the saying ‘he only had an 8th grade education’ a whole new meaning, doesn’t it?!

  13. notasenior says:

    You people just don’t get it! You’ve heard about global warming haven’t you? Its the fault of the unions. Hurricane Sandy – the fault of the unions. The beach erosion in Flagler – you got it, the unions are behind it. Conghestion on I-4 – the unions are to blame for that too. See its all the fault of those damn unions. Just watch the Faux News Network.

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