Putting Education Reform To The Test

Indiana Education Chief Applies For Florida Job

Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana

Indiana Superintendent of Public Education Tony Bennett has applied to become Florida Commissioner of Education.

Tony Bennett, who lost his reelection bid to remain Indiana’s education chief, says he has applied to become Florida’s education commissioner.

Bennett is a close ally of former Gov. Jeb Bush. Bennett has led Chiefs for Change, an education advocacy group tied to Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education.

“After careful consideration, I have decided to submit an application for Florida’s Commissioner of Education position,” Bennett said in a statement to our colleagues at StateImpact Indiana. “The Sunshine State’s consistent commitment to providing all students a top-notch education is impressive and inspiring. I look forward to participating in the next stages of this process.”

If chosen by the State Board of Education, Bennett would replace Gerard Robinson. Robinson announced his resignation — to much surprise — in July.

Bennett’s reelection loss was viewed as a national litmus test on efforts to overhaul education policy by many observers. Despite Bennett’s support for Bush’s agenda, Bush told StateImpact Florida he didn’t take the election results as a statement on the suite of policies his two foundations have pushed for across the country.

Bennett’s application raises an interesting dilemma for Gov. Rick Scott and the State Board of Education.

Scott has recently shifted his policies on K-12 education, pushing for a budget increase last year, acknowledging complaints about the emphasis placed on standardized testing and criticizing the State Board of Education decision to set different achievement goals based on race.

The State Board of Education is filled with appointees with close ties to Bush, including former staff.

If Scott — who seeks reelection in 2014 — is attempting to distance himself from Bush’s policies, would he oppose Bennett’s appointment?

For more on the relationship between Bennett and Bush, check out this story.


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