An angry, indignant Tony Bennett resigned as Florida's Education Commissioner this morning after allegations surfaced in emails that he changed the grade for a Charter School in Indiana that was run by a prominent Republican donor from a "C" to an "A" when he was school chief there.
Bennett said that his resignation was his idea, and that Rick Scott asked him to stay on. Scott has insisted that Bennett "did a great job" and continues to do so.
Bennett said that his remaining in the job would be a "distraction" for Scott and for Florida students, wasn't "fair" and he called the Indiana allegations "malicious" and "unfounded." Alluding that the timing and the release of the emails was politically motivated and should be investigated, he said he was "fearless" and proud of what he had done in Florida and would leave "with his head held high."
While he claimed that the release of the emails was politically motivated, he said his actual changing of the grade for the Republican donor's charter school was not political.
Former Indiana and current Florida schools chief Tony Bennett built his national star by promising to hold "failing" schools accountable. But when it appeared an Indianapolis charter school run by a prominent Republican donor might receive a poor grade, Bennett's education team frantically overhauled his signature "A-F" school grading system to improve the school's marks.
Emails obtained by The Associated Press show Bennett and his staff scrambled last fall to ensure influential donor Christel DeHaan's school received an "A," despite poor test scores in algebra that initially earned it a "C."
"They need to understand that anything less than an A for Christel House compromises all of our accountability work," Bennett wrote in a Sept. 12 email to then-chief of staff Heather Neal, who is now Gov. Mike Pence's chief lobbyist.
Bennett also said during his press conference that there should be "a debate on the best way to educate children."
Just changing a grade you don't like isn't usually an option in debates on how to best educate children. Who needs an education when you can just manufacture the appearance of one? Apparently that works for Bennett, and Rick Scott, who was willing to keep Bennett on in spite of his changing grades from a "C" to an "A" so as not to compromise his "accountability work."
Tony Bennett had been Rick Scott's third Education Commissioner since he was elected governor.