Outgoing Indiana school chief Tony Bennett applies for Florida's top education job

Bennett lost to Linda Ritz

INDIANAPOLIS - Just weeks after losing his bid for re-election, outgoing Indiana schools chief Tony Bennett is applying for Florida’s top education position.

It’s a job that would give the Republican state superintendent of public instruction a way to press for education changes. Since Florida’s post is appointed rather than elected, he would not face the kind of backlash among teachers that catapulted Democrat Glenda Ritz to a grassroots-driven victory over the well-funded incumbent on Nov. 6.

Bennett confirmed his decision to apply in a statement Monday morning.

"After careful consideration, I have decided to submit an application for Florida's Commissioner of Education position," he said. "The Sunshine State’s consistent commitment to providing all students a top-notch education is impressive and inspiring. I look forward to participating in the next stages of this process."

His candidacy should be no surprise. This year he’s served as the head of "Chiefs for Change," a group of reform-minded state education officials that is part of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education.

Reports have surfaced in recent weeks indicating that Florida’s top education officials see Bennett -- who would be hired by the state’s Board of Education, rather than elected, as the state superintendent is in Indiana -- as a top candidate.

Roberto Martinez, the vice chairman of the Florida Board of Education, told the Tampa Bay Times that Bennett "has been one of the very best commissioners in the nation," and that he hoped he would apply.

Pam Stewart, Florida’s interim education commissioner, told the Miami Herald that she felt she should get to know Bennett better.

"He's very focused, very driven and I think that serves, or has served, the state of Indiana very well. I think his skills are certainly transferrable and we’ll see what happens," Stewart said.

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