Florida Education Commissioner Tony Bennett resigned Thursday, three days after news broke that he had changed the grade of a donor’s charter school while Indiana’s education chief.
Bennett’s abrupt departure sparked criticism that his actions hurt the credibility of Florida’s school-accountability system. Some called for reforms, while others praised Bennett and were sad to see him go.
“It’s not fair to the children of Florida that I continue as commissioner and deal with the distraction,” Bennett said during a news conference in Tallahassee. “I end my tenure with my head held high.”
According to emails sent last year while Bennett headed Indiana’s public-education system, he pushed top staffers to raise from a “C” to an “A” the grade of Christel House, an Indianapolis charter school run by a Bennett friend and campaign donor. The Associated Press first reported on the emails Monday.
“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. The grade was raised by changing the way high-school scores are counted in schools without a senior class.