Governor Rick Scott on Tony Bennett: Florida Commissioner of Education is doing 'a great job'

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla -- Two days after the Associated Press reported that Commissioner of Education Tony Bennett had overhauled a grading system to ensure a Republican donor's charter school received an "A" grade, Governor Rick Scott said Bennett was doing "a great job" in Florida.

"He is very focused on accountability. He is very focused on making sure we have the number one school system in the country," Scott told WPTV NewsChannel 5's Alex Sanz. "Tony Bennett is doing a great job."

Scott did not directly answer whether Bennett's job was secure.

The comments were Scott's first since the Associated Press reported the story on Monday.

According to the Associated Press, emails obtained by the news agency showed that Bennett and his staff scrambled last fall to ensure influential donor Christel DeHaan's school in Indianapolis, Indiana, received an "A," despite poor test scores in algebra that initially earned it a "C."

Bennett, a former Superintendent of Public Instruction in Indiana, reviewed the emails on Monday and denied that DeHaan's school, Christel House Academy, received special treatment, the Associated Press said.

He said discovering that the charter would receive a low grade raised broader concerns with grades for other "combined" schools — those that included multiple grade levels — across the state.

"There was not a secret about this," he told the Associated Press. "This wasn't just to give Christel House an "A." It was to make sure the system was right to make sure the system was face valid."

The emails, the Associated Press said, clearly showed that Bennett's staff was intensely focused on Christel House, whose founder has given more than $2.8 million to Republicans since 1998, including $130,000 to Bennett and thousands more to state legislative leaders.

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