Make us your home page


Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

AP: Bennett changed school grade in Indiana for GOP donor



The Associated Press has a story today that has a lot of people talking about Florida's education commissioner, Tony Bennett. It seems that Bennett, as education chief in Indiana last fall, scrambled to change the grade of a school founded by an influential Republican donor, after learning it had earned a C. From the story:

"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."

Read the rest of the story here.

The story comes on the heels of Bennett's recommendation - and the state Board of Education's approval - to extend a "safety net" for schools in Florida to cushion them against multi-letter drops in a single year. The recommendation, which passed on a narrow vote, was controversial, with some board members arguing that it essentially concealed the truth about schools' performance.

The grades were released here Friday. Some of Bennett's staffers in Indiana followed Bennett to Florida when he became our commissioner. Two of them now are key decision makers and were on the task force that met this month about school grades. 

[Last modified: Monday, July 29, 2013 5:49pm]


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours