Florida’s new education commissioner made his debut before the House Education Appropriations Subcommittee this morning.
Tony Bennett clearly knows how to schmooze the folks responsible for funding his office.
Bennett began by telling the 13-member committee he has been an admirer from afar.
“I was taught at a very young age that you can always tell a person’s priorities if you would look at two things: their checkbook and their calendar,” Bennett said. “The forty-eight hours I have spent here, I have been amazed at the amount of time and discussion around how we make sure Florida’s children are the best educated in the United States.”
Florida’s education budget for the current fiscal year is about $20.3 billion dollars. That’s nearly a third of the entire state budget.
Bennett called the committee’s work a testimony to the importance of education in Florida.
“I think as a state, Florida sets the compass for the rest of the country,” Bennett said. “Your attention to resources, your attention to the way we do it is admired all across the country, and I am thrilled to be part of your team.”
Bennett thanked subcommittee Chairman Erik Fresen, R-Miami, and said he is looking forward to serving lawmakers and Florida’s children.
Bennett is the former Indiana Superintendent of Public Education. He lost his reelection bid in November and quickly found work as Florida’s top education leader.
Bennett was chosen by the State Board of Education, and the state teachers union made it clear they were unhappy with the decision.
Florida Education Association President Andy Ford issued a statement criticizing Bennett’s hiring.
Ford said, “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.”