Former Indiana and current Florida schools chief Tony Bennett built his national star by promising to hold "failing" schools accountable. But when it appeared an Indianapolis charter school run by a prominent Republican donor might receive a poor grade, Bennett's education team frantically overhauled his signature "A-F" school grading system to improve the school's marks.
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."
If you're shocked an appalled by this, you really haven't been paying attention to what Republicans are doing to public schools at the state level, have you? GOP fat cat donor with a shiny charter school wasn't going to get a C grade from the state, no sir. You buy those politicians, they stay bought.
Though Indiana had had a school ranking system since 1999, Bennett switched to the A-F system and made it a signature item of his education agenda, raising the stakes for schools statewide.
Bennett consistently cited Christel House as a top-performing school as he secured support for the measure from business groups and lawmakers, including House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President Pro Tem David Long.
But trouble loomed when Indiana's then-grading director, Jon Gubera, first alerted Bennett on Sept. 12 that the Christel House Academy had scored less than an A.
"This will be a HUGE problem for us," Bennett wrote in a Sept. 12, 2012 email to Neal.
Neal fired back a few minutes later, "Oh, crap. We cannot release until this is resolved."
By Sept. 13, Gubera unveiled it was a 2.9, or a "C."
So Bennett and his GOP buddies retooled the entire state school grading scale just to give a multimillionaire donor's school an A. Because that, ladies and gentlemen, is how "accountability" works when you're a Republican. You buy it, then you tell everyone how awesome charter schools are, and how miserable public schools are, and then you have justification to take money from public schools and give it to charter ones, and all the right people make fat stacks of cash.
Meanwhile, let's keep telling ourselves the problem with schools are teachers and poor minority kids and not for-profit raiders like Tony Bennett.