In Resigning Bennett Calls Email Story “Unfounded, Malicious and Politically Motivated”

A bitter, emotional and defiant Tony Bennett took to the podium at the Florida Department of Education today and resigned as Education Commissioner of Florida saying that “when education becomes about the adults, it’s time for the adult to get out.”

Fair enough. Too bad more ed reformers, like say, Michelle Rhee, don’t leave when they become the story.

Bennett insisted that the decision to leave was his and that both governor Rick Scott and former governor Jeb Bush encouraged him to stay amid the allegations he fixed grades for the charter school of a financial donor. Bennett called the story “malicious and unfounded,” in his opening remarks, but failed to adequately clarify when probed by reporters only saying that there was a pattern and politically motivated. He did not field particular questions about specific emails but said that he would be making a request to the Indiana inspector general for a full investigation.

He indicated that two top aides, Will Krebs and Dale Chu – both part of the email chain and decision-making in the grade change, were not resigning. Bennett did say, however, that the decision to retain them would be up to Florida.

Tallahassee Democrat reporter Travis Pillow asked a poignant question with respect to his role as fiscal agent for the PARCC testing alliance. Bennett had his head down as Pillow was asking but raised his eyebrows at the inquiry. He assumed that the next commissioner – he recommended former interim commissioner Pam Stewart – would take on the role.

Bennett apparently decided to resign sometime last night. His  carefully crafted reasoning – nothing can distract from what Florida’s children are doing – Bennett’s quick surrender is out of character. Moreover, if the story that has evolved out of his emails is indeed “unfounded, malicious and politically motivated,” he would have been vindicated in soon order. Especially with the powerful education reform industry ready to go to the mat for him.

The emails provided a paper trail which Bennett knew he couldn’t run from. He and his supporters have attempted to spin that someone “leaked’ the emails, but emails from government agencies are only released after a FOIA request which was done by Associated Press investigative reporter Tom LoBianco. While the reporter could have been tipped off by a member of the new IDOE, Bennett was being counseled by his staff that the grade changes may not be legal. The staffer tasked with making the final changes that Bennett pushed for, Jon Gubera, resigned soon afterwards. What’s likeliest is that whomever tipped off LoBianco was more whistleblower than anything else.

Bennett probably knows that more will be coming out and couldn’t tell  Scott and Bush the entire story last night. Remaining would embarrass them and quite a bit of damage has been done already. Today was his last day in the sun he used the opportunity to beat his own drum with sanctimony.







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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15 Responses to In Resigning Bennett Calls Email Story “Unfounded, Malicious and Politically Motivated”

  1. geauxteacher says:

    Oh yeah – you can bet there is more to it. Put your white boots on Louisiana. Coming to a bayou near you!

  2. “Malicious” is tearing down communities by corporate takeover of their schools and displacing the children who need consistency and care the most. “Malicious” is railroading your profit-motivated agenda over the lives of teachers, hijacking their professionalism through REPA2 and the destruction of tenure and collective bargaining, despite the outpouring of dissent and research to the contrary. “Malicious” is forcing our children to take tests that are meaningless except to show “failure” to those who would turn their education into businesses. Don’t talk us about “malicious.”

  3. Are you sure these emails were gotten through a FOIA request? Generally inter-agency communications are exempt from disclosure.


  5. Tom McConnell says:

    When Bennett lost the election, he said the voters didn’t know what a mistake they’d made, and his “handler,” then-Gov. Mitch Daniels, said teachers employed illegal tactics to win the election… a totally unfounded claim.

    Now his own emails showed that he was manipulating scores for his own benefit, yet he calls it “unfounded.” (Really??? YOUR OWN WORDS implicated you, Tony!!!)

    The pattern here is easy to see – pin anything that goes wrong on someone else, deflect the blame… How about following this passion for “Accountability” now, Tony?? Have the courage to be accountable for your own actions!!

  6. Quan Cao says:

    Sanctimonious is a great description of their behavior. I would say this machismo is done for the man who made him resign. The pattern here is more and more Rick Scott. The same disloyalty towards Jennifer Carroll is now exhibited with Tony Bennett. Now, if you asked me if he did it, he is more guilty than sin, but in their book, changing grades is nothing. They are anointed by God, and by God, they will follow no rule made by man. This is a case where clearly, the powers that be are writing the last check for this version of the Florida Republican Party. They will find themself another crook from the other party, and the game will continue. This is also a case where the press can find itself an identity and a soul again. The people needs a champion.

  7. Hello Mr. Sikes. May I use part of your article? I would like to create a standardized test version of this article (along with questions).

  8. Pingback: Bob Sidle in Florida: Bennett Resigns, Angrily | Diane Ravitch's blog

  9. Lorri says:

    I am thrilled with the investigative reporting that exposed this situation! Florida needs someone to speak out for our children… Power to the Press if this is what can happen! Keep digging, there’s more to be found. Follow the money trail … it will lead you to the instigators .

  10. cc says:

    You write concisely and well. I agree that there will be more damaging information coming out. Right after the AP article broke the news Bennett supporters came out with the coded “great job Brownie” and “premature to discuss the matter.” When the supporters start talking like that you know that they were just waiting for the Friday news dump to get rid of the chiseler.
    Now that Bennett has committed fraudulent game rigging in two different states can’t he be prosecuted under the Rico Act? It would be sweet justice to see him bring down fellow racketeers Bush, Levesque, and Rhee.

  11. Pingback: August 2 | tigersteach

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