Tony Bennett is expected to resign Thursday as Florida education secretary following two days of raging controversy over a school grading controversy in his home state of Indiana.
Bennett, who came to the Florida state from the Hoosier state last January, has faced mounting calls for his resignation in the wake of revelations, first reported by The Associated Press, that he interceded on behalf of an Indiana charter school run by a prominent Republican Party donor.
You can sympathize with Bennett in a way. Helping your friends and screwing your enemies has been a part of the political landscape for all of time and are still very much alive today. Just look at the capital cronyism in Washi9ngton and the IRS targeting of conservative groups. But there is also a new emphasis on ethics -- as much as that concept can be possible in politics -- especially at the local level. Bennett was caught betweeen old-world politics and the new reality.
I understand that -- when I started in journalism, there were still common practices that would horrify today's ethicists -- making up phony letters to the editor just to gin up traffic, for example, or letting the business editor collect one paycheck from the Chamber of Commerce for writing press releasees and another paycheck from us for rewriting them as news stories. Hell, one time, we even had an education reporter who engineered a school board takeover behind the scenes because he didn't like the way his son's elementary school was being run.
Still, he can't play by the old rules. He go caught (allegedly) violating today's rules.
His troubles are also causing some to question the whole A-F grading system in use when he "upgraded" the score of the school in question. Forgive me for stating the obvious, but that should be an entirely different debate. Any system can be abused, and the fact that one apparently was doesn't mean the system is bad. It should be evaluated on its own merits.