August 1, 2013

Florida's education chief resigns amid grading scandal

Tony Bennett faces allegations he changed the grade of a charter school run by a major Republican Party donor.

The Miami Herald

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Florida Education Commissioner Tony Bennett announces his resignation at a news conference on Thursday in Tallahassee. The revelations that Bennett and Indiana officials scrambled to change the grade of one school come amid a strong debate over Florida's grading system.


Bennett said Scott had urged him to stay in the position, but that he resigned to keep the focus on education.

“I do not believe that Gov. Scott, as supportive and encouraging as he’s been to me … should have to spend his time if things to do continue to trickle out,” he said.

Bennett said he did not know what might “trickle out,” and added that the emails published by the AP had caught him by surprise.

Scott said little on Thursday, but released a statement praising Bennett’s tenure.

State Senate Education Committee Chairman John Legg, however, said Bennett’s departure was the right thing if it meant maintaining integrity for the state’s accountability systems.

“We need to move forward to eliminate any question of improprieties,” the Republican said, stressing he had heard no accusations that Bennett had acted inappropriately in Florida.

Hillsborough Superintendent MaryEllen Elia called on the Board of Education to find a strong successor.

“What’s important now is that Florida quickly establishes strong and stable leadership in the Department of Education,” she said. “We have so much work to do and this is a critical time for Florida’s school accountability system.”

Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, however, urged state leaders to keep the focus on policy issues like school grades.

“As long as we fixate on the who, the what goes unfixed,” Carvalho said in a statement. “There should be no celebration of the commissioner’s resignation. For our children’s sake, let’s get accountability right.”

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