Racial Sensitivity 101


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 abdul@indypolitics.org.