The state’s established parent groups – including the PTA – began signaling the day before Tony Bennett’s appointment as Florida’s new education commissioner that the BOE’s selection of candidates promised to be so divisive that it would assign them as the spiraling out of control status quoers.. They did it anyway. Blind to the realities of what Florida’s collapsing multiple accountability system actually means, the BOE unanimously appointed the one candidate who could deliver the most fuel to the fire. The Herald-Tribune writer Lloyd Dunkelberger has this statement from FEA president Andy Ford:
The Florida Education Association is disappointed and disheartened at the selection of Tony Bennett to be Florida’s education commissioner. 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.
“We certainly hope he has learned his lessons by being rejected in Indiana. But we’re skeptical. This decision does not indicate that the State Board of Education and Gov. Rick Scott understand that parents, teachers and those who question a flawed reform agenda deserve their voices heard and their insights and expertise incorporated into Florida’s strategy for public education. The Board and the governor once again have ignored the parents and teachers of our state.”
Two days of news from Florida’s parent group opposition trumps hyper-partisans on the board like Kathleen Shanahan who will want to blame the state’s teacher unions. We’ve yet to hear from any of the local school board members across the state who passed resolutions against high-stakes testing or have been battling the state board on charter schools. If Bennett’s history is any clue, he’ll have them riled up within a few weeks of taking the post in January.