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New education commish may set back Scott’s warming to teachers union

by John Kennedy | December 12th, 2012

Gov. Rick Scott’s outreach to Florida teachers and his newfound support for public schools may have been dealt a setback Wednesday with the selection of a new state education commissioner Tony Bennett.

Bennett was ousted by voters as Indiana’s superintendent of public education last month after warring with teachers unions over school vouchers, charter schools and a new school grading system.

Since then, he addressed Jeb Bush’s Excellence in Education national conference in Washington, D.C., where he echoed many of the same policies long attached to Florida’s former governor. Bennett was chosen Wednesday by the Florida Board of Education to become the state’s third education commissioner of Scott’s two-year tenure as governor.

“(Bennett) is a champion of the testing mania, unchecked expansion of charter schools and voucher programs and has proven to advance the Jeb Bush education agenda that has drawn fire from teachers, parents and experts in the field,” said Florida Education Association President Andy Ford.

“That’s the same approach that has led to a flawed and chaotic system in Florida that has frustrated parents and teachers alike,” Ford concluded.

Scott invited Ford and other union officials to the Governor’s Mansion for dinner in September. It was their first meeting and was viewed as a sign of thawing relations between the two sides, which had battled fiercely during the 2010 governor’s race and through Scott’s first year in office.

Scott has since been publicly avowing his support for classroom dollars and the quality of Florida teachers.

Scott said he expects Bennett to advance the administration’s new look at education.

“I look forward to working with him on our goals to increase education funding and advocate for the professional development of Florida teachers, which is critical for student success,” Scott said.

 

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