On Wednesday, the State Board of Education named outgoing Indiana schools superintendent Tony Bennett as Florida’s new Education Commissioner. But the move was immediately slammed by the state's largest teacher's union.
Bennett was one of three finalists interviewed on Tuesday after 64 people applied for the position vacated by Gerard Robinson. Within minutes of the board’s unanimous vote for Bennett, the state’s largest teacher’s union, the Florida Education Association, released a statement saying it was disheartened and disappointed in the choice.
“Bennett proved to be divisive in his tenure in the same position in Indiana and was voted out of office last month in the conservative state. He is a champion of the testing mania, unchecked expansion of charter schools and voucher programs and has proven to advance the Jeb Bush education agenda that has drawn fire from teachers, parents and experts in the field. That’s the same approach that has led to a flawed and chaotic system in Florida that has frustrated parents and teachers alike. In Indiana, teachers and education professionals felt he was blaming them for all of the state’s education woes," said FEA President Andy Ford.
But Bennett says, they just need to get to know him.
“I am certainly not disappointed working with the Florida teacher unions. I look forward to having the opportunity to sit down with them, exchange ideas, enable them to talk to the person, as opposed to the persona that they may have heard about,” he said
The union’s gripes with Bennett include supporting the expansion of charter schools, vouchers and standardized testing. They’re the same reforms the group has been fighting for about a decade.
Meanwhile, Governor Rick Scott issued his own statement.
“We are excited that the State Board of Education chose Tony Bennett as Florida’s new Commissioner of Education. Tony has a great record of achievement in Indiana and I am confident he will be a tireless advocate for Florida’s students," Scott said.