by Edd Doerr
The big news in the media today, August 2, is that Florida school chief Tony Bennett has resigned as a result of his alleged involvement in a charter school grade altering scandal in Indiana. The big question is why Florida Gov Rick Scott named him to head Florida's public schools scant weeks after Indiana voters had booted him out of the same job in that state. Was it because he was a favorite of former Florida Gov Jeb Bush, the reputedly smarter brother of former President George W. Bush, and of other school pseudo-reformers given to undermining public education?
Why did Hoosier voters oust Bennett, who outspent his Democratic opponent, teacher Glenda Ritz, by 4 to 1 in what was mostly a GOP sweep in Indiana, the same day, incidentally, that Florida voters rejected a school voucher constitutional amendment by a landslide? Because Bennett was part of the sleazy conservative cabal with Gov Mitch Daniels (now president of Purdue University, appointed by the board that he himself had appointed) and the Republican state legislature that defecated on the state constitution (Article I, Sections 4 and 6) to enact the most ambitious school voucher program in the US to divert public funds to religious private schools. Bennett had made it clear during his tenure in Indiana that he disliked public schools and public school teachers and favored the corporatization of education through charter schools. Charters, you will recall, were found in June 2013 by the Stanford University CREDO project to be no net improvement over regular public schools.
But the disappearance of Tony Bennett is not enough. The conservative drives to undermine public schools, wreck teacher unions, and disintegrate K-12 education into an expensive anarchy of sectarian indoctrination centers and for-profit charter school networks are barreling ahead full steam. Americans, with 90% of our kids in financially starving public schools, need to come together and stop this nonsense -- at the ballot box. Americans for Religious Liberty (arlinc.org) and other organizations can use all the help we can get.