New Florida Education Commissioner Tony Bennett offered more hints Wednesday that he is not satisfied with the current accountability framework for Florida private schools that accept students with vouchers and tax credit scholarships.
Making his first appearance before the Senate Education Committee, Bennett was asked by Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, for his thoughts on “holding everybody accountable that receives tax dollars.” His response:
“I would suggest to you that this is a place where with all candor, sir, that even some of my supporters have been uncomfortable in the past. Because I do believe that schools that receive state funds should be held accountable and I believe that accountability should be just as transparent as what we expect from our traditional public schools.
“So I would share with you that in Indiana, every school that received state funds got a letter grade that was all calculated the same way. A public charter school got its letter grade calculated the same way as the traditional publics. Schools that received vouchers – and we did have the nation’s most expansive voucher program, pure voucher program – they got a letter grade, based on the same measurements as our traditional publics. And that way the public could make an informed choice around school quality.
“Now I know that constitutionally, the voucher situation here isn’t the same was Indiana. And I know there’s that discussion about state funds. So I want to lay that out there. But again, these were all schools that received money from the state budget. And I believe as a steward of the state tax dollars, we have to think about making sure that our citizens know the performance of schools that receive state tax dollars. And our job is to set the expectations for those schools and drive to those expectations.”
Senators also asked Bennett about a wide range of other issues. His biggest priorities, he said: implementing Common Core standards and reviewing SB 736, the far-reaching 2011 law that changes how district teachers are evaluated and paid. Continue Reading →