From Orlando Sentinel Columnist Scott Maxwell:
You may know Florida is getting a new education secretary named Tony Bennett. (No, not that Tony Bennett … though that’d be kind of cool.)
What you may not know is we’re getting him only because Indiana tossed him out. Voters of that very conservative state — Mitt Romney won by 10 points in Indiana — booted this conservative reformer from office just last month.
Apparently a big reason is that Bennett’s version of “reform” involved a whole lot of teacher-bashing.
Don’t take my word for it. Take it from one of Indiana’s leading voices of conservative school reform, lawyer and blogger Paul Ogden. He penned a piece titled: “Why Tony Bennett Lost —The Folly of Beating Up Teachers for Public Education’s Problems.”
We all know our schools need help. And maybe Bennett learned a lesson. But the last thing this state needs is another teacher-trasher.
Florida’s teacher trasher-in-chief, Jeb Bush, who is close to Bennett, likely used his political capital to assure Bennett was appointed. But Maxwell goes to the politics of the matter and looks to one of Indiana’s most influential political columnist in Paul Ogden. Here’s a key part of Ogden’s bomb damage assessment of the aftermath of Bennett’s defeat:
When Tony Bennett was elected four years ago, I was puzzled when he made classroom teachers a primary target. I didn’t think that part of his reform philosophy was correct. As it turns out targeting classroom teachers is also bad politics. Teachers are great at networking and voting as a coalition. Unlike what many conservatives think, however, many teachers are, in fact, Republican.
My Democratic friends though are going to be pretty disappointed when they find out that electing Glenda Ritz Superintendent of Public Instruction is unlikely to stop the pace of education reform in this state. Education reform is driven primarily by the Governor and the Indiana General Assembly. Working around Ritz will be a piece of cake. In fact, an untold story is that Bennett’s abrasive style and reluctance to listen to input from others had actually started alienating supporters of education reform, including Republican state legislators.
Bush has been able to stay out of the line of fire during Florida’s recent debacles of its accountability systems that are of his doing. Bennett’s presence will allow his to continue to do so. Yet Bennett has been put into a job where he’s got to be a fixer and not a changer like he was back in Indiana. This may not what he’s all about. I lost count of how many times he used “accountability” during his interview.
Some board members coaxed contrition out of Bennett during his public interview on Tuesday, but he still has to prove it’s genuine. Rick Scott wasted several months on a good will tour he obviously had no intention of following through on, but he has a lightening rod in Bennett and a partisan state board to hide behind now. But the realities of Indiana politics translate to Florida. Republican voters will throw out republicans.