While Tony Bennett was resigning today from his post as Florida’s education commissioner, Indianapolis Star reporter Matt Tully dropped this bomb:
In June of 2011, Tony Bennett, then Indiana’s superintendent of public instruction, picked a for-profit education company in Florida to run a group of Indianapolis public schools.
The company, Charter Schools USA, set up operations in Indianapolis soon after the announcement and officially began running Manual High School, T.C. Howe High School and Emma Donnan middle school in the late summer of 2012. Millions of Indiana tax dollars have since flowed to the company, which has received many good reviews for its work in Indianapolis.
But a recent hiring decision by Charter Schools USA is sure to raise eyebrows and questions about conflicts of interest, particularly now that Bennett is embroiled in a massive controversy centering on special treatment given to certain Indiana schools during his tenure.
The decision: Charter Schools USA earlier this year hired Tony Bennett’s wife, Tina, as a regional director based in Florida, where Tony Bennett was hired late last year as commissioner of education. And, so, the bottom line is this: Tina Bennett is now earning a paycheck from the company her husband hand-picked to take over schools in Indiana, a decision that was very good for the company’s financial fortunes.
Scathing Purple Musings has covered Tony Bennett’s Charter Schools USA problems here and here. Charter Schools USA apparently also received $6 million more than they should have to run four Indiana schools than they should have under Bennett’s watch.
Charter Schools USA CEO, Jonathan Hage served on governor Rick Scott’s education transition team and is one-time employee of Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education. CSUSA and Hage have donated to Bennett’s campaign and heavily to Florida republicans and the school choice lobby.
Small wonder Rep. Janet Cruz D-Tampa said yesterday that Bennett was engaged in “pay-for-play.”
UPDATE: Conservative columnist Michelle Malkin rips Bennett’s cozy relationship with Charter Schools USA .