Former education commissioner Tony Bennett registers as state lobbyist

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Tony Bennett, the former Florida Commissioner of Education who resigned in 2013 amid controversy, has registered to lobby before the Florida Legislature and the executive branch.

A state database of lobbying registrations shows that Bennett signed up to represent Standards for Success, an Indiana-based education consulting company whose services include “Common Core Implementation,” and Texas Teachers, a Houston area company which specializes in alternative teacher certification programs.

Bennett’s lobbying registration are lists him as working for Strategos Public Affairs, the governmental consulting firm headed by former state Rep. Trey Traviesa. Former Commissioner of Education Jim Horne is also employed by Strategos.

The nature of Bennett’s advocacy work for his clients, as well as the back story of his hiring for Strategos is unknown at this time. An op-ed written by Bennett for redefinED states that Bennett is a partner at Strategos (h/t Travis Pillow). A late-night inquiry to Traviesa was, appropriately, not answered, although with Traviesa, Horne, Bennett, as well as Adam Giery, that’s a lot of education policy expertise in one shop.

In December of 2012, the state Board of Education named Bennett as the state’s education commissioner, a decision based in part on Bennett’s stellar record while the state of Indiana’s Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Bennett rocketed to national prominence with the help of former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, former Gov. Jeb Bush and a national network of Republican leaders and donors. Bennett was a co-founder of Bush’s Chiefs for Change, a group consisting mostly of Republican state school superintendents pushing school vouchers, teacher merit pay and many other policies enacted by Bennett in Indiana.

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.

In July 2013, the Associated Press reported that Bennett, as Indiana superintendent of schools, changed the “A–F” school grading system, so a particular charter school, Christel House Academy, would receive a top A rating. Emails linked in several news outlets showed how Bennett was focused on one school. Bennett’s email quoting him as saying, “We have NO chance of advancing accountability during the session with this problem in front of us.” Subsequent emails showed his staff working to get the charter school up to an A rating.

On August 1, 2013, Bennett announced his resignation due to the scandal surrounding the charter school, Christel House Academy, citing if he stayed on as commissioner it would “be a distraction to the children of Florida.”

Material from the Associated Press was used in this post.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.