New Fla. Ed Commissioner Followed Bush Lead

ANGELA PASCOPELLA's picture
Monday, January 14, 2013

As schools chief in Indiana, Florida's new education commissioner had a reputation as a hard-charging, caustic, union-battling advocate for the kind of conservative policies pushed by former Sunshine State Gov. Jeb Bush - a friend and supporter of the Republican.

Tony Bennett's style didn't sit well with Indiana voters. In November, they voted him out of office after one term in favor of school librarian Glenda Ritz, a Democrat, while electing another Republican governor and backing Mitt Romney in the presidential race.

Bennett may fare better when he begins his new job Monday in Florida, where Republicans control the governor's office and Legislature. His agenda includes private school vouchers, charter schools, accountability standards for school administrators and teachers, high-stakes testing, and teacher pay based on annual evaluations. Florida already has adopted many of the changes he fought for in Indiana.

And in Florida, Bennett won't answer to voters. The governor-appointed State Board of Education has the power to hire - and fire - education commissioners.

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