Indiana’s recently ousted state school superintendent was hired Wednesday as
Florida’s new education commissioner.
The State Board of Education unanimously selected Tony Bennett, a Republican
who lost a bid for re-election in Indiana last month, from a slate of three
finalists at its regular meeting in Tampa.
Board members cited Bennett’s background as a teacher, principal, local
superintendent and state schools chief as well as his active role in the
implementation of Common Core State Standards. Florida is among 45 states,
the District of Columbia and three territories that have agreed to adopt the
The board also cited Bennett’s pledge to seek out the views of teachers,
parents, administrators and community members.
Bennett led efforts in Indiana to adopt many of the accountability changes,
including letter grades for schools, pioneered by Florida and former Gov.
Jeb Bush, who has close ties to several board members.
Immediately after the vote, Bennett was ushered into the meeting room. He
told the board he was looking forward to the opportunity to continue
Florida’s momentum toward improving student achievement and serving as an
example for the rest of the country.
Before the vote, the board celebrated Florida’s 2011 fourth-graders who came
in second only to Hong Kong on an international reading test.
The other finalists were Murray State University President Randy Dunn, who
once served as state schools superintendent in Illinois, and Arlington, Va.,
education consultant Charles Hokanson, a former deputy assistant U.S.
secretary of education in President George W. Bush’s administration.
The board interviewed all three Tuesday.
Former Commissioner Gerard Robinson resigned in August after about a year on
the job. He cited separation from his family in Virginia, where he
previously had been secretary of education, after his wife, a law professor,
was unable to find a comparable job in Tallahassee.