INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - Tony Bennett gave up his job as Education Commissioner in Florida Thursday. It's the latest development in an Indiana scandal that broke on Monday.
On the way out, Bennett said that he did the right thing last year when he changed the grade given to the Christel House Academy from a "C" to an "A." Nevertheless, he's out of a job and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence on Thursday called for a thorough review of the state's grading system.
Bennett told a Tallahassee, Fla. news conference that for him to stay on would be unfair to Florida Gov. Rick Scott.
"Every minute we spend defending the credibility of your commissioner because of what's said 800 miles away," Bennett said, "is a minute that we waste that we should have spent thinking about educating children in Florida."
Bennett was praised by Scott Wednesday when he said, "Tony Bennett's doing a great job."
Thursday, the Florida governor refused to address the Indiana scandal.
"He let me know he's going to resign," Scott said of Bennett. "It was his decision to resign."
Bennett, who was defeated in his bid for re-election as superintendent of public instruction last fall, was hired to be the top education official in Florida in January. Emails uncovered by the Associated Press show that last year Bennett ordered his staff to rework data so that the Christel House charter school would get an "A" in his A-to-F grading system rather than the "C" that was first calculated.
The director of Christel House said he was unaware and welcomes a review ordered by new Superintendent Glenda Ritz.
"You know, we want our school to be judged fairly," said Carey Dahncke, "and have the same calculation applied to us as applied to any other school in our situation so, we welcome the review."
Pence wants a review conducted by the time the State Board of Education meets next week.
"I do believe it's important we preserve the A-to-F system," said Pence, "and that Hoosiers have the confidence that that's being administered properly."
As he resigned, Bennett called on the Indiana Inspector General to investigate his actions with regard to Christel House. He said he believes that will put this matter to rest. In the meantime, he said his only plans are to spend time with his family over the weekend.
Christel DeHaan, founder of the Christel House Academy, released the following statement Thursday night:
Dr. Tony Bennett has helped re-shape education policy in Indiana, to give all Hoosier children the best possible opportunity for quality education and bright futures. It is unfortunate that his actions relating to changing the grade given to 12 Indiana schools, including Christel House, may distract from the significant progress that has been made in Indiana.
Neither I nor anyone connected with Christel House made any request to have any grade changed. I was as surprised as anyone when I was contacted late in the morning of July 29th for a reaction to a soon-to-be-published Associated Press Story.
Christel House was part of a very broad coalition of education reform interests, including the Indiana Chamber, Goodwill Industries, Stand For Children, the Office of the Mayor of Indianapolis, the Mind Trust, and many others, who worked with Dr. Bennett and the Indiana Department of Education to suggest improvements in the "A-F" grading system.
I endorse the call of many public officials of both political parties for a thorough review of the grades given to schools in 2012 and revisions made if they are inaccurate. I have been and continue to be an advocate for the equitable assessment of all Indiana schools, and am confident that the Department of Education will pursue that.
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