Tony Bennett rose to prominence for his “A-F” system of grading schools and holding them accountable, serving as Indiana’s head of education. But now, the current Florida school chief may have been caught tampering with grades when it came to shoring up the funds from a Republican donor.
According to The Associated Press, “Emails obtained by The Associated Press show Bennett and his staff scrambled last fall to ensure influential donor Christel DeHaan's school received an "A," despite poor test scores in algebra that initially earned it a "C."
"They need to understand that anything less than an A for Christel House compromises all of our accountability work," Bennett wrote in a Sept. 12 email to then-chief of staff Heather Neal, who is now Gov. Mike Pence's chief lobbyist.
The Associated Press also reported, “Bennett, who now is reworking Florida's grading system as that state's education commissioner, reviewed the emails Monday morning and denied that DeHaan's school received special treatment. He said discovering that the charter would receive a low grade raised broader concerns with grades for other "combined" schools — those that included multiple grade levels — across the state.
"There was not a secret about this," he said. "This wasn't just to give Christel House an A. It was to make sure the system was right to make sure the system was face valid."
“However, the emails clearly show Bennett's staff was intensely focused on Christel House, whose founder has given more than $2.8 million to Republicans since 1998, including $130,000 to Bennett and thousands more to state legislative leaders.”
Grades across the state have recently dropped since Bennett has taken over, which he said “reflects Florida’s commitment to higher standards.”