Why the List of Tony Bennett’s Financial Backers Should Be Important to Floridians


It’s rare that an elected public servant moves to the same position as an appointed one as former Indiana Superintendent of Public Education, Tony Bennett seeks to do in Florida.  Bennett’s hasty, last-minute entry as a candidate for Florida Education Commissioner didn’t allow for proper vetting by state media. But Bennett, who clearly wont be running from his record as Indiana’s ed boss, doesn’t want to be asked about the people who financed his political rise. An overview of those can be found here. We will look at a few of them in this space as, some of them do business in Florida and will continue to do so with an appreciative Bennett making decisions on their contract.

K12 Inc:

The controversial online education corporation does not have a good record and has been drawing interest from a variety of investigators across the nation. Already under investigation by the Florida DOE, K12 Inc. already has contracts with 39 state school districts.  How Bennett could avoid this clear conflict of interest as education commissioner is impossible to see.

McGraw-Hill and Houghton-Mifflin Harcourt education publishing and printing corporations

Both already do business in Florida. The later was awarded a contract to provide services involving Florida’s teacher evaluation law, SB 736.

Charter Schools USA

Already the largest charter school operator in Florida, Bennett would oversee oversight of CSUSA schools and serve on deliberative state boards in the event CSUSA are involved n an appeal. CSUSA was awarded $30 million in contracts for five schools in Indiana. The real estate development arm of CSUSA, Red Apple Development made a $5000 contribution to Bennett’s campaign in late September.

Koch Industries & Koch Development

While it’s unlikely that either Koch entities will do direct business with the FDOE, its understandable why they would donate to Bennett. As Indiana’s boss, Bennett drove policy. In Florida they donate to state legislators.

Florida Crystals Corporation

The corporate education reform movement knew that one of its rock stars in Bennett was in trouble with voters and $1.7 million of his  $2.1 total came during this election cycle. Florida Crystals Corporation CEO Pepe Fanjul sits on the Board of Directors of Jeb Bush’s Fundation for Florida’s Future. Fanjul’s corporation has donated $390,000 to Florida legislators and PACs and made a $2500 donation to a charter school PAC this past August.

Eli Broad

Broad’s $50,000 contribution this year was paid off with Bennett’s rewrite of Indiana’s professional educator standards. The Broad Foundation seeks to get superintendent level administrators in place who seek to privatize the nation’s public schools. Broad would love nothing more than to have such a loyalist in place in Florida as Bennett would be.

Followers of the education privatization movement will recognize other names among the list of contributors to Bennett’s campaign. What money Bennett didn’t use is his and his last-minute entry – only days before the selection –  into the pool of candidates for Florida’s education commissioner post serves as stealth attempt by backers like those listed above to get their man in there.

It rare that such a candidate for public service been discredited by such vast conflicts of interest. Such potential mischief has been witnessed that so easily filters  accusations of cynicism and paranoia.

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About Bob Sikes

A long time ago and a planet far, far away I was an athletic trainer for the New York Mets. I was blessed to be part of the now legendary 1986 World Series Championship. My late father told me that I'd one day be thankful I had that degree in teaching from Florida State University. He was right and I became twice blesses to become a teacher in the late 1990's. After dabbling with writing about the Mets and then politics, I settled on education.
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5 Responses to Why the List of Tony Bennett’s Financial Backers Should Be Important to Floridians

  1. Tom says:

    The author writes: “How Bennett could avoid this clear conflict of interest as education commissioner is impossible to see.” This can be said of MANY of Bennett’s business and campaign supporters!

    In Indiana, Pearson Publishing is the company awarded a huge contract to write and publish all the tests used for assessing students, teacher candidates, etc., and many of the textbooks approved by the state board. This windfall deal came after big donations to elect Bennett and his boss, Gov. Mitch Daniels.

    Mitch Daniels and Bennett have both shown a total disregard for any standard interpretation of “ethics.” Their conflicts of interest are blatant, and they have learned that when you are in power, you can make up your own rules to give yourself and your policies an unfair advantage while ignoring complaints, accusations, and the voice of the majority of voters.

    Florida, hire Bennett at GREAT risk! He’ll eat up your education funding to feed his cronies!

  2. Pingback: Jeb Bush, Gary Chartrand Among Past Campaign Contributors to Tony Bennett | FPEP Blog

  3. Pingback: Sun Sentinel to Tony Bennett: Don’t Position Yourself As An Ideologue | FPEP Blog

  4. Pingback: What Will Happen to FLDOE Investigation of K12 Inc When Tony Bennett Arrives? | FPEP Blog

  5. So you can break heslth plan of nevada it down. He smiles, because mmy
    fathner used to go out of their material the co-pays aand
    services conventional module be slightly higher.

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