Bennett’s Troubling Email to Bush, Daniels on Eve of Resignation


From an AP story found at Indystar.com

TALLAHASSEE, FLA. — The day before he abruptly resigned from his job, Florida Education Commissioner Tony Bennett wrote an impassioned email to two former governors he called “part of my family.”

Bennett reached out to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels to give a spirited defense of his actions as Indiana education chief while also explaining his reasons for stepping down last week.

Bennett said his life had been a “living hell” after The Associated Press reported that his staff in Indiana changed that state’s school-grading formula to benefit Christel House Academy, a charter school founded by influential Republican donor Christel DeHaan.

“The simple fact is that I cannot allow my family to go through this and what will be more attacks to come,” Bennett wrote in a July 31 email from his personal account

cannot allow all our work in Indiana to be compromised. I cannot allow you Governor Daniels, and your legacy to be cheapened,” he wrote. “I cannot allow our staff to be victimized and hurt. I cannot allow this to cast a dark shadow over Governor (Rick) Scott and his need to have an education leader who has the credibility to lead. Finally, I cannot allow your work which I consider to be the cornerstone of education reform to be cheapened by this character assassination that will spill over into your work.”

The email was released Friday by the Department of Education in response to a public records request.

In the email — which also was sent to the head of a foundation run by Bush — he acknowledges that he had told them before he had notified the chairman of the State Board of Education.

The email does state he had talked to the Scott administration before notifying Daniels and Bush.

Bennett in his email said he came to Florida to help Scott have a “lasting legacy” because he believed the education model installed under Bush is “right for American education.”

“While I never was so Pollyanna to believe that I would love Governor Scott the way I do you guys, I came here to help him nonetheless,” he wrote

What’s not written here is the underlining fact that Associated Press reporters have requested Bennett’s Florida emails and now have them. Bennett’s Bush-Daniels email may be just the first story.

The tone of Bennett’s email to the two powerful former governors offers a glimpse at the relationship he had with them. Were they so close that they served as Bennett’s enablers? Were they the backbone for Bennett’s heavy-handed Indiana tenure where he so easily dismissed opponents with “that train has left the station.” Coupled with an Indiana BOE stacked with Daniels appointees, Bennett assumed absolute power. And it’s clear that in Indiana, absolute power corrupted absolutely.

 

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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One Response to Bennett’s Troubling Email to Bush, Daniels on Eve of Resignation

  1. I think that this email shows the complete disconnect between our former state superintendent and the people who were/are either teaching or parenting children in public schools. As a mother of four in Indiana, I noticed that Bennett rarely visited any public schools. When he came to my town to speak (in front of the business crowd), he showed up at the last minute with little-to-no warning for those of us who would have had many questions and comments for him. Instead, Bennett spent the majority of his time in voucher and charter schools and, more than that, schmoozing at ALEC conferences with corporate “reformers” as their Golden Boy of the “reformiest” state. He was defensive and nervous at the board meetings I attended (or viewed online) and downright mean and dismissive to those who passionately begged him to listen. We did our best to give him the message last fall when he lost to our now-superintendent, Glenda Ritz. We will be working hard in the coming year to throw (vote) out the other people from Bennett’s “train” of reform: our supermajority of Republican legislators who, along with Bennett and former governor Mitch Daniels, railroaded (forgive the analogy) through their agenda, to the detriment of our kids and their teachers.. .as well as the future of our democracy! The joy we feel at his exposed agenda and rigging of the system is offset by the sadness and frustration of knowing that his cronies are still in charge and that so much damage has already been done.

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