'Rock Star' Educator Who Follows Jeb Bush Picked For Florida Education Commissioner

Dec 12, 2012

Florida has chosen a follower of Jeb Bush education theory from Indiana to be its next education commissioner.

NEW EDUCATION CHIEF: Tony Bennett of Indiana was the unanimous choice to become Florida's next education commissioner.

Tony Bennett is serving out his term as Indiana's superintendent of public instruction after a re-election defeat.  In Florida, he'll replace Gerard Robinson, who resigned months ago after only a year in office.

During his interview with the Florida Board of Education, Bennett -- a former teacher, coach and school principal -- expressed his allegiance to the outcomes-based ideas advanced by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. From The Tampa Bay Times report:

(Bennett) spoke about the importance of keeping students first in mind and not letting any fall behind. He argued that there's no such thing as teaching to the test if a state is using a valid assessment to determine whether students have learned the academic standards that teachers are supposed to be teaching.

"Assessment doesn't sit aside from instruction," he said. "It is part of instruction."

Bennett also spoke passionately about the need to implement the Common Core standards, which Florida has adopted. His support of the standards contributed to his election loss in Indiana, as some in the tea party opposed the idea of a "national curriculum."

Despite his defeat, Bennett is considered a "rock star" of education reform. Florida headhunters began focusing on him practically from the day he lost his election in Indiana. 

Bennett was making less than $80,000 a year in Indiana. The Florida job pays $275,000.

More reading about Bennett here, from the archives of the Indianapolis Star.