Education

Amid Grading Controversy, Florida Education Chief Tony Bennett Resigns

Tony Bennett resigned Thursday as Florida education commissioner following two days of controversy over school grades in his home state of Indiana.
August 2, 2013

Tony Bennett resigned Thursday as Florida education commissioner following two days of controversy over school grades in his home state of Indiana.

He made the announcement at a news conference in Tallahassee late Thursday morning.

“The decision to resign is mine and mine alone, because I believe that when this discussion turns to an adult, we lose the discussion about making life better for children,” Bennett said.

Coming to Florida from the Hoosier state last January, Bennett had faced mounting calls for his resignation in the wake of revelations, first reported by The Associated Press, that he interceded on behalf of an Indiana charter school run by a prominent Republican Party donor. On Thursday, he called those reports “malicious and unfounded.”

His resignation would be a major setback for Gov. Rick Scott and state education leaders, who are working to overhaul Florida’s system of school accountability and assessment in compliance with the national Common Core standards.

“I’m saddened by Commissioner Bennett’s departure,” state Board of Education member Sally Bradshaw wrote in an email to the Herald/Times. “This is a loss for Florida’s students.”

The Florida Department of Education has had a revolving door of leaders during Scott’s 31 months in office. Including Bennett, there have been three different education commissions and two interim education commissioners.

Bennett, a nationally recognized education reformer, came on board after losing reelection in Indiana.

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