Serial superintendent's baggage causes him to leave Florida post

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August 1, 2013

By Maresa Strano


TALLAHASSEE, Florida: Florida Commissioner of Education Tony Bennett stepped down August 1, 2013, two days after revelations he had abused his previous office as Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction surfaced in the press.[1]

Bennett's resignation, effective immediately, stemmed from an Associated Press exposé showing that while he was still superintendent in Indiana, Bennett tampered with a charter school's grading system in order to protect his relationship with a powerful Republican campaign donor.[2]

Prior to becoming Florida's nonpartisan education commissioner, Bennett served as the Republican Superintendent of Public Instruction in Indiana from 2009-2013.[3] He ran for re-election last year but was narrowly defeated in the Nov. 6 general election by Glenda Ritz. Weeks later, he announced that he had applied for the appointed position of Florida Commissioner of Education.[4] He was unanimously approved for the appointment on December 12, 2012 and assumed office as commissioner on January 14, 2013.

In February of this year, Governing named Bennett as one of the top state Republican officials to watch in 2013.[5]

Six months later, he resigned from public office.[6] Denying all reports of ethical or political misconduct, Bennett explained in a statement, "I don't believe it would be fair to be distracted" to continue serving as commissioner amid the controversy.[7][8]

Before entering politics, Bennett was a science teacher. He parlayed his teaching job into a career as a school administrator.[3]

The vacancy created by Bennett's abrupt departure is not the first of its kind to arise this summer nationwide. On June 30 Roger Breed resigned his post as Nebraska Commissioner of Education. Breed's seat has yet to be filled with a permanent replacement, meanwhile ex-deputy Scott Swisher is serving as acting commissioner.[9][10]

Florida state law has no specific procedure for filling vacancies in the office of education commissioner.

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