Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Pence aide leaving post, had role in grade scandal

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Gov. Mike Pence’s chief lobbyist is leaving her post three weeks after it was revealed she was involved in manipulating the grades that Indiana gives its schools.

Heather Neal will join Limestone Strategies as president of its public affairs practice, The Journal Gazette reported Monday. Limestone has headquarters in Indianapolis and Washington, D.C.

Neal was the chief of staff to former Indiana schools Superintendent Tony Bennett last year before joining Pence’s team in January.

The Associated Press last month published emails showing a frantic effort by Bennett, Neal and others to rewrite Indiana’s school grading formula after the Indianapolis-based Christel House Academy, founded by GOP donor Christel DeHaan, scored a C. The school’s grade was changed twice in the following days, eventually ending at an A. Several other schools also saw their grades improve as a result.

“This will be a HUGE problem for us,” Bennett wrote in a Sept. 12, 2012, email to Neal.

Neal responded, “Oh, crap. We cannot release until this is resolved.”

Bennett resigned as Florida’s schools chief a few days after the emails were published.

State ethics rules will allow Neal to immediately lobby the General Assembly, but she must wait one year before lobbying the executive branch.

A phone message that The Associated Press left at Neal’s home on Monday evening wasn’t immediately returned.

Current Superintendent Glenda Ritz has acknowledged “manipulation” in the way the state’s schools were graded.

Indiana uses the A-F grades to determine which schools get taken over by the state and whether students seeking state-funded vouchers to attend private school need to first spend a year in public school. They also help determine how much state funding schools receive.

 

Posted 8/20/2013