Teachers union wants to check email between Bennett, ALEC and Jebby John Kennedy | August 12th, 2013
The American Federation of Teachers said Monday it is filing public records requests in Florida for email and other communication between former Gov. Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education, ex-state Education Commissioner Tony Bennett and others.
AFT Randi Weingarten said the move follows a similar request the teachers’ union made last week in Indiana, where Bennett formerly was Education Commissioner. Bennett resigned from his Florida post earlier this month after it became known that he pushed to raise the letter grade given a school run by a top Republican donor in Indiana while he ran that state’s school system.
Before he resigned, Bennett emailed Bush and Indiana Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels seeking support.
“Public education is a public good, and taxpayers, parents, teachers and others who rely on our public schools are entitled to full transparency around the decisions and actions made regarding our schools—whether in Indiana or here in
Florida,” Weingarten said.
“We need to reclaim the promise of public education to help all children reach their full potential,” she added. “Tony Bennett betrayed that promise when he put backroom deals and favors for political donors ahead of the children of Indiana. Creating full transparency will ensure continued confidence and trust in our public schools.”
AFT’s public records request also is aimed at trying to get communication between Bush’s foundation and the American Legislative Exchange Council, the conservative policy organization that has been a longtime advocate of charter and online education.
AFT wants to learn more about connections between the organizations the finance Bush’s foundation, including Charter Schools USA, and education policy nationwide.
Charter Schools USA employes Bennett’s wife in Louisiana and also was a major donor to Republican campaigns and an organization backing Florida’s corporate tax-scholarship program that sends low-income students mostly to charter schools.
Charter schools have grown tremendously in Florida over the past decade, helped by a receptive Legislature, which includes several members closedly involved with such schools or the for-profit companies that run them.