Florida education commissioner Tony Bennett said the state of Florida “doesn’t have time to waste” when he resigned Thursday, following controversy over school grading during his stint as Indiana’s state superintendent.
“The issue of education reform is very important,” Bennett said in a press conference Thursday. “The pursuit of that plan is the most important pursuit that the government of Florida has in front of it. And I don’t think anything should distract us from that plan. It is not fair to the children of Florida that I continue as commissioner and deal with the distractions.”
Bennett moved to Florida in January after losing his re-election bid for superintendent in the Hoosier state. He faced mounting calls this week for his resignation in the wake of allegations that he changed the grade for an Indiana charter school run by a prominent Republican Party donor.
The series of events surrounding Bennett’s resignation has led a number of Indiana education organizations to voice their opinions on the A-F grading system.
AFT Indiana, a union representing more than 6,000 teachers and school-related personnel throughout the state, called for an immediate suspension of the system.
“The fact that the grading system was overhauled to give an A to a C charter school grade is deplorable and unethical,” said ATF president Rick Muir. “Bennett’s resignation should confirm that Indiana’s flawed, and now manipulated, A-F grading system is evidence enough to call for immediate suspension of this process.”
Muir expressed his excitement that the truth is coming out about what Bennett and his staff did to the system, and said he hopes that it will serve as a catalyst for change.
“It is time for parents, PTAs, faith groups, Chambers of Commerce, the NAACP, and mayors to unite and demand that our governor and legislators joins us in reclaiming the promise, not an education reform movement that caters to monetary gains over children,” Muir said.
“We’re hoping that some of those good legislators are starting to see the truth.”
Indiana State Teachers’ Association president Teresa Meredith said her organization also supports an investigation into the grading system to see how schools were impacted. She said that the A-F model has unfairly penalized the images of schools receiving lower grades.
“You know if something is really simple or seems too good to be true, it probably is,” Meredith said. “A through F sounds really simple…but there’s really much more to it than that.”
“Whatever the measuring stick is, if it encompasses some kind of nuance piece, so that whatever the nuances are for the different kinds of communities are considered, then perhaps it’s a better piece.”
Meredith added that although some may celebrate Bennett’s resignation, it is really a sad event for the state of Indiana.
“The resignation comes as part of an accountability system of actions that have possibly been taken. This particular incident behooves us to really step back. We’re talking about kids.”