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