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Florida Education Commissioner Bennett Changed School Grading System in Indiana to Benefit a Donor

| July 29, 2013

Tony Bennett (

Tony Bennett (

Florida Education Commissioner Tony Bennett and his then-Indiana employees “frantically overhauled” the Hoosier State’s school-grading system last year when it looked like one of his political contributors’ schools might get a “C,” the Associated Press reported.

According to the AP, Bennett — who was then superintendent of public instruction in Indiana — became alarmed when Christel House’s initial marks came back lower than expected. Bennett had touted Christel House in his drive for reform, and its founder had donated $130,000 to Bennett as part of $2.8 million contributed by Christel DeHaan to Republicans over the last 15 years. “They need to understand that anything less than an A for Christel House compromises all of our accountability work,” Bennett wrote in one email obtained by the AP.

“The September 2012 emails obtained by The Associated Press show former schools Superintendent Tony Bennett urging his staff to find a way to give Christel House an A grade despite poor test scores in algebra that earned it a C,” the AP reported in stories to be published Tuesday. “Bennett is reviewing Florida’s grading system as that state’s education commissioner.”

But Bennett told the news organization Monday morning that the changes in Indiana helped schools besides Christel House. “This wasn’t just to give Christel House an A. It was to make sure the system was right to make sure the system was face valid,” Bennett said. Unlike Florida, Indiana allows voters to select the head of the state’s education system. Bennett was defeated for re-election last year.–News Service of Florida and FlaglerLive

9 Responses for “Florida Education Commissioner Bennett Changed School Grading System in Indiana to Benefit a Donor”

  1. Ayn Rand's Spleen says:

    Well, this has really got to sting those parents that moved specifically to areas because of how well schools rated there.

    New tag idea: “Florida: the pay-for-grades state”

  2. Binkey says:

    School grading systems are a tool for politicians to forward their own agenda.

    Schools need accountability, but the politicians played around with the school grading system so much that the grades really are not valid.

  3. Dennis McDonald says:

    Indiana’s Gain Our Loss !

    Bennett was voted Out by the Voters of Indiana because he was not responsive to the Citizen’s needs. Flagler County should have this same direct accountability and We can !

    Next election cycle We the Citizens of Flagler County will ask for a referendum to change back to the law as stated in Article IX of the Florida Constitution and provide for a Elected Superintendent of Flagler Schools.

    The fact is close to 70% of our Adval taxes go to our schools with “experts” in T town like Bennett controlling the majority of how the dollars are spent.

    What We must look at after the June 7 referendum are ways to avoid repeating this history and it has led me to focusing on the BOE and the Superintendent of Schools. Presently the BOE allows the Teachers contract to be negotiated on the schools side by three Principals, the HR Director and the Financial Manager. What’s missing ? Taxpayers elected by you and me. This makeup is about as inbred as it gets. Recently I learned that Councilman Bill McGuire a seasoned labor negotiator volunteered for the task. Janet Valentine SOS refused ! Time to require a change.

    The Superintendent must become an elected position so the VOTERS can put in place someone that will represent them and their children. This would allow us to elect someone without a PHD[ED] with a skill set that demonstrates the ability to plan, organize,evaluate and direct the resources of our district for the BEST outcome. Superintendents should show results on SAT’s as well as FCAT’s

    Change the structure for direct accountability and reverse the irresponsible pandering. If WE can vote for THREE people in Flagler to oversee our mosquitoes let’s add ONE for our kids’ and this country’s future !

    Dennis McDonald



    Article IX Section 5 of the Constitution of the State of

    Florida provides for the election of the Superintendent of

    Schools of Flagler County, FL who shall be elected at the

    next countywide election for a 4 year term. The district

    school superintendent shall be employed by the district

    school board as provided by general law.

    At the present time the Superintendent of Schools of

    Flagler County Florida has been a appointive position by the

    School Board of Flagler County, FL since 1980.

    Vote Yes Vote No

  4. Raul Troche says:

    This is just another government crook who is robbing the righteous. I wonder Governor Scott who appointed this man, Bennett in the first place. He should be in jail for violating the public trust. And he definately should be blacklisted from any government job. Here is a joke for all of you. This joke tastes sweet but it is bitter once it hits your stomach. Little Tony goes to his dad and says, dad I think I am going to go to Florida and get into a life of crime. Tony’s father responds, “government job or in the private sector?”

  5. Sherry Epley says:

    When Tony Bennet was “appointed” by the Florida School Board, this was published by the Florida Education Association:

    Former Indiana Superintendent Tony Bennet was one of three finalists from a pool of more than 60 applicants. He applied after losing the election to a teacher: Glenda Ritz who campaigned against many of his education reforms.


    “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.”

  6. Sherry Epley says:

    Oh Yes. . . Again, governor Scott, his cronies, and apparently at least some board of education members need to be VOTED OUT OF OFFICE!

  7. Magnolia says:

    Why is this man still working here?

  8. Anonymous says:


  9. A.S.F. says:

    Oh, those Florida Republicans–always working selflessly for the public good!

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