With the architects of Florida’s education system on the defensive, the fiery leader of the country’s second-largest teachers union launched another round of attacks on former governor Jeb Bush and the state’s recently resigned education chief during a Monday visit to South Florida.
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten called Florida “ground zero for every single market-based experiment that has been done to our children” during a speech before hundreds of teachers at a back-to-school event at Sun Life Stadium. She compared former State Commissioner of Education Tony Bennett, who resigned this month amid a school grade-fixing scandal, to the late, disgraced Miami-Dade union boss Pat Tornillo.
“I love when somebody says, like Jeb Bush, ‘[Bennett] had to resign because of hits he was taking from the right and the left.’” Weingarten said. “No. He had to resign because he was cooking the books. Just like Tornillo had to leave.”
Tornillo’s scandal — using union funds to pay for a lavish lifestyle — put him in prison about a decade ago and was far worse than the allegations that led to Bennett’s fall. But emails showing that Bennett in his time as Indiana’s state superintendent changed a “C” to an “A” for a struggling charter school run by a Republican party donor have nevertheless been damaging to the education reform movement he represented.