The Florida Education Association, the state’s major teachers’ union, was not leased by the state Board of Education’s decision to hire former Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett as Florida’s newest education commissioner.
The union called Bennett a “divisive” leader and “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.”
FEA President Andy Ford said in a statement that the teachers “hope” that Bennett may have “learned his lessons” by recently being rejected by Indiana voters over a controversy involving the move to common core standards and related testing _ which is also being pursued in Florida. “But we’re skeptical,” Ford said.
Florida House Democratic leader Perry Thurston, D-Plantation, struck a more conciliatory tone.
“I respect the state Board of Education’s authority to hire the education commissioner,” Thurston said in a statement. “I hope the choice the board made is the right one for Florida. Florida deserves an education commissioner who puts public schools and public school students first.”
Here is the full statement from FEA President Andy Ford:
“The Florida Education Association is disappointed and disheartened at the selection of Tony Bennett to be Florida’s education commissioner. Bennett proved to be divisive in his tenure in the same position in Indiana and was voted out of office last month in the conservative state. He 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. That’s the same approach that has led to a flawed and chaotic system in Florida that has frustrated parents and teachers alike. In Indiana, teachers and education professionals felt he was blaming them for all of the state’s education woes.
“We certainly hope he has learned his lessons by being rejected in Indiana. But we’re skeptical. This decision does not indicate that the State Board of Education and Gov. Rick Scott understand that parents, teachers and those who question a flawed reform agenda deserve their voices heard and their insights and expertise incorporated into Florida’s strategy for public education. The Board and the governor once again have ignored the parents and teachers of our state.”