Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Local Reaction To Education Commissioner's Sudden Resignation

Gina Jordan
State Impact Florida

Florida Education Commissioner Tony Bennett resigned earlier today after eight months on the job

Bennett’s departure follows recent revelations that he had raised the grade of an Indiana charter school, owned by a powerful Republican donor to Bennett, when he ran that state’s school system. Bennett says he didn’t do anything wrong, and that he was resigning so as not to detract from Governor Rick Scott’s efforts to overhaul Florida’s education system.

Bennett’s resignation came just two days after stories about his activities in Indiana started surfacing here in Florida. That suddenness is a major concern for Jacksonville Public Education Fund President Trey Czar, who says replacing Bennett is the top priority.

“We’re at a time of tremendous transition with the state grading system, with the implementation of Common Core, and so I think the key here is for the state board of education to move quickly to hire a qualified person,” says Czar.

Florida Public School Chancellor Pam Stewart is expected to be named interim Education Commissioner until a permanent replacement for Bennett can be found.

Duval school activist Colleen Wood, founder of, released this statement regarding Bennett's departure:

“The actions of former Commissioner Bennett in Indiana only served to further undermine the shaky trust Florida parents have in the school grading system here.  We are calling for a moratorium on school grades.  They have become meaningless and do not accurately reflect student learning or performance.

In light of the revelations of Commissioner Bennett’s inexcusable actions while Education Commissioner in Indiana, we are troubled that Governor Scott did not immediately call for Commissioner Bennett’s resignation. 

The parents of Florida expect more from our Commissioner and our Governor.  Mr. Bennett’s actions have confirmed our worst fears – that the school grading system is being manipulated for political purposes.  Quite frankly, we’re tired of their ideologically-driven reforms hurting our children and it’s just not working anymore.”

Wood is calling for an investigation of Florida’s school grades to make sure everything is on the up-and-up.

“This revelation of what happened in Indiana does cast doubt on what happened in Florida and I think the adults need to step up here and do the right thing. ”

Statewide, 760 elementary and middle schools got A’s this year, down from more than 1200 A-schools last year. The number of F-schools went from 40 last year to 107 this year. And, educators say, more would have failed if the state Board of Education hadn’t moved to prevent schools from dropping more than a single letter grade in one year.

Cyd Hoskinson began working at WJCT on Valentine’s Day 2011.