Tony Bennett, two other candidates named finalists for Florida education chief

Sherri Ackerman

The Florida Board of Education announced its finalists for education commissioner today, with a list of three candidates including Indiana’s outgoing education chief Tony Bennett.

Bennett, who gained national acclaim and criticism for pushing Florida-style education reforms in his home state, lost his re-election bid last month. That immediately sparked rumors that the Chiefs of Change leader might come to the Sunshine State.

The other finalists culled from 53 applications are:

Charles Hokanson Jr. A consultant and former president of the Alliance for School Choice, he also served as a deputy assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Education, appointed by former President George W. Bush. According to the Orlando Sentinel, Hokanson said he worked on state reform efforts at the alliance, including those pushed in Florida by former Gov. Jeb Bush.

Randy Dunn. Murray State University president and a former Illinois state superintendent of education.

The board will interview the finalists during its Dec. 11 meeting in Tampa.

The new education commissioner will replace Gerard Robinson, who left at the end of August. Robinson, who only took the job a year earlier, said at the time that being apart from his family in Virginia proved too challenging. He also received sharp criticism surrounding changes to the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test that resulted in test scores dropping statewide.

Pam Stewart, the interim education commissioner, did not submit an application for the permanent post.

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