The recent allegations that the Republican Bennett rigged the grading system to benefit a charter school founded by a Republican campaign donor are serious. So serious that Bennett has resigned his position as the Florida education commissioner, a post he took after losing his bid for re-election last November to Democrat Glenda Ritz in the race for Superintendent of Public Instruction.
The politics behind the scandal are ugly — and sure to get uglier in coming days — but it in some ways, it obscures the concerns that the A-F grading system was flawed from the start.
Earlier this year — long before the Bennett scandal broke — Republican and Democrat legislators were calling for it to be overhauled. Among those lawmakers was Republican state Sen. Carlin Yoder, a former school administrator and a Bennett ally on many things. Goshen is in Yoder’s district.
“I knew the Goshen schools were doing tremendous things,” Yoder told me earlier this week. “So that’s what caught my attention.”
Yoder was part of the group of lawmakers who successfully pushed for the law that mandates the State Board of Education come up with a new A-F system by November.
“We don’t have an A-to-F grading system that is fair to schools,” Yoder said. “We need to work on it.”
The Bennett scandal will make that task difficult: Hearts have been hardened by the allegations and already the conversations in the Statehouse have turned bitterly partisan. Surely, the Bennett scandal will be exploited for all its worth.
When writing this column, I went to back to look at that story I wrote about the West Goshen Elementary School and pulled this quote from that principal who was working so hard to do right his students: “It doesn’t matter what we’re teaching if the students aren’t learning,” he said. “To focus on anything other than learning is a big waste of time.”
— Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse for the CNHI newspapers in Indiana. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org