Nobody felt the sting of former state Education Commissioner Tony Bennett’s resignation quite like Jeb Bush.
Bush played a key role in recruiting Bennett from Indiana and was among his most ardent supporters — even after Bennett became entangled in an alleged grade-fixing flap.
When Bennett stepped down on Aug. 1, it was the latest in a string of setbacks for Bush, who has spent the last five years pushing an ambitious education reform agenda across the country. Earlier this summer, Bush’s signature model of grading schools on an A-to-F scale came under attack in Florida. Then came a crushing wave of criticism from tea party groups, which oppose the new national standards Bush is promoting.
The political fallout could be significant. Many observers believe Bush is using his role as national education reformer to position himself for a run at the presidency in 2016. That hinges partly on success in Florida, where Bush created his template for school reform.
Bush, who has ducked questions about his presidential ambitions, did not return an email seeking comment.
When asked what Bennett’s resignation would mean for Bush, Bush spokeswoman Jaryn Emhof said: “The question should be what will the resignation mean for students. Improving student achievement is at the heart of Gov. Bush’s passion for reform and has been for the 20 years he has devoted to this cause.”