News Section: Schools and Education
Outgoing Indiana School Chief Said to be Prospect for Florida Post
BRADENTON – Tony Bennett lost his bid for re-election for state superintendent of public schools in Indiana last month, but he recently confirmed his application for the equivalent post in Florida, where the director of education is appointed by the governor. Considered a top prospect for the job, Bennett has ties to Jeb Bush and is said to have modeled some of Indiana's policies on those championed by the ex-governor.
Despite an 8-1 fundraising advantage, the Republican candidtate lost his reelection campaign in November to grassroots Democratic challenger Glenda Ritz. A former private school teacher, Bennett has been an outspoken advocate for the voucher programs that former Gov. Bush has been championing nationally, while promoting his Foundation for Excellence in Education. Gov. Scott has been hot on vouchers since campaigning for office in 2010, and Indiana's voucher program is one of the most expansive in the country.
Ritz's success in ousting Bennett came with the help of strong support from public school teachers who reportedly had strong opposition to Bennett's penchant for standardized tests and teacher assessments, as well as his anti-union stances. Bennett also helped coordinate the state takeover of five failing schools that Indiana then turned over to private companies, philosophically similar to the so-called parent-trigger bill that failed in Florida during the most recent legislative session.
Bennett reportedly pushed for the expansion of online courses in Indiana, including an unsuccessful effort to require every student in the state to take an online course before graduating. Unlike some Florida conservatives, however, Bennett was a champion for the increasingly controversial “common core standards” which 46 states have agreed to implement in 2014. Indiana has already approved the national standards, though they have yet to be implemented and Ruiz ran opposed to them.