When a bipartisan pair of policy and budget analysts last week
released a report that said there was no malfeasance on the part of former
Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett when it came to the grade
change of the Christel House Charter School, even
though itsfounder was a Republican donor, I thought it was time to head
over to Crate and Barrel and buy a bunch of spatulas so all the Bennett critics
could get the eggs off their faces.
Just to get everyone caught up to speed, earlier this summer the
Associated Press ran a series of stories regarding e-mails between Bennett and
his staff regarding the "A-F" grade system and the Christel House charter school. The school had always been
an "A" school but was given a "C" under the new system.
That alerted Bennett and his staff to think something was wrong with the
grading system, which, it turned out, there was. There was a miscalculation
with the matrix being used to issue grades and not only did the Christel House's grade get changed but so did about 160
other schools in Indiana.
Bennett critics used the controversy to call the former
superintendent everything but a child of God. There were screams for grand jury
investigations and Bennett, not wanting to be a distraction for his new boss in
Florida, Gov. Rick Scott, resigned from his position as Commissioner of Florida
Schools. Bennett haters were having a field day, until last week.
The review was done by John Grew, an aide to former Democratic
Gov. Frank O'Bannon, and Bill Sheldrake, the former head of the Indiana Fiscal
Policy Institute did have several recommendations which can be used to improve
the grading system, but most importantly it found there was no malfeasance,
wrongdoing, misconduct, misbehavior, impropriety or any other synonym you can
pull up at thesaurus.com that could be attributed to Bennett and his staff.
The report did say that Bennett's staff underestimated the
complexity of the "A-F" formula and they should have done a much
better job communicating with teachers, educators and other stakeholders. Fair
criticism, which Bennett admitted was very valid during his appearance last
Saturday on my weekend radio program on WIBC-FM in Indianapolis. Lawmakers have
already begun implementing those recommendations, for example a new panel that
is reviewing the "A-F" grading system includes, teachers, principals
and superintendents from across Indiana, all picked by the governor, House and
Senate leaders, as well as the superintendent of public instruction so everyone
will have input into the new system as well as skin in the game.
In the meantime, you have to ask if all the people who went
after Bennett will issue any apologies. Will theFt. Waynenewspaper
columnist who basically insinuated that Bennett was trying to protect a
Republican donor write a column apologizing and admitting her instincts were
wrong? Will the very prominent Democratic blogger who called Bennett"despicable"print
any type of retraction? Will the Indiana Democratic Party
which has been devoid of ideas concerning education for as long as I have been
in Indiana issue any statement correcting their allegations of"corruption",
especially since it was one of their own who co-authored the report? And will
Superintendent Glenda Ritz apologize not only to Bennett, but
to the taxpayers for devoting what were likely countless staff hours and
resources so e-mails could be "released" to the public to go after
Bennett? Probably not. You know what's funny about all
this? I have been accused of being a Bennett apologist, when in fact after the
release of this report, I think Bennett's critics and
haters of education reform are the ones who need to do the apologizing.
Abdul is an
attorney and the editor and publisher of IndyPoltics.Org. He is also a frequent contributor to
numerous Indiana media outlets. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.