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Sunday, December 9, 2012

Who really supports Tony Bennett? Hint, it's not teachers and students

From Scathing Purple Musings, by Bob Sykes

It’s rare that an elected public servant moves to the same position as an appointed one as former Indiana Superintendent of Public Education, Tony Bennett seeks to do in Florida.  Bennett’s hasty, last-minute entry as a candidate for Florida Education Commissioner didn’t allow for proper vetting by state media. But Bennett, who clearly wont be running from his record as Indiana’s ed boss, doesn’t want to be asked about the people who financed his political rise. An overview of those can be found here. We will look at a few of them in this space as, some of them do business in Florida and will continue to do so with an appreciative Bennett making decisions on their contract.
K12 Inc: The controversial online education corporation does not have a good record and has been drawing interest from a variety of investigators across the nation. Already under investigation by the Florida DOE, K12 Inc. already has contracts with 39 state school districts.  How Bennett could avoid this clear conflict of interest as education commissioner is impossible to see.
McGraw-Hill and Houghton-Mifflin Harcourt education publishing and printing corporations: Both already do business in Florida. The later was awarded a contract to provide services involving Florida’s teacher evaluation law, SB 736.
Charter Schools USA: Already the largest charter school operator in Florida, Bennett would oversee oversight of CSUSA schools and serve on deliberative state boards in the event CSUSA are involved n an appeal. CSUSA was awarded $30 million in contracts for five schools in Indiana. The real estate development arm of CSUSA, Red Apple Development made a $5000contribution to Bennett’s campaign in late September.
Koch Industries & Koch Development: While it’s unlikely that either Koch entities will do direct business with the FDOE, its understandable why they would donate to Bennett. As Indiana’s boss, Bennett drove policy. In Florida they donate to state legislators.
Florida Crystals Corporation: The corporate education reform movement knew that one of its rock stars in Bennett was in trouble with voters and $1.7 million of his  $2.1 total came during this election cycle. Florida Crystals Corporation CEO Pepe Fanjul sits on the Board of Directors of Jeb Bush’s Fundation for Florida’s Future. Fanjul’s corporation has donated $390,000 to Florida legislators and PACs and made a $2500 donation to a charter school PAC this past August.
Eli Broad: Broad’s $50,000 contribution this year was paid off with Bennett’s rewrite of Indiana’s professional educator standards. The Broad Foundation seeks to get superintendent level administrators in place who seek to privatize the nation’s public schools. Broad would love nothing more than to have such a loyalist in place in Florida as Bennett would be.
Followers of the education privatization movement will recognize other names among the list of contributors to Bennett’s campaign. What money Bennett didn’t use is his and his last-minute entry – only days before the selection –  into the pool of candidates for Florida’s education commissioner post serves as stealth attempt by backers like those listed above to get their man in there.
It rare that such a candidate for public service been discredited by such vast conflicts of interest. Such potential mischief has been witnessed that so easily filters  accusations of cynicism and paranoia. 

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