Plenty of education observers have pointed out State Superintendent Tony Bennett's enthusiastic and unquestioning support for charter schools and his wife's job as a school improvement consultant for the Indiana Public Charter Schools Association. Tina Bennett, a former school principal in Clark County, landed the job after her husband was elected to the state's top school post.
But there's now another interesting connection between the Indiana Department of Education and the superintendent's wife. Tina Bennett supervises the Teach for America program at Marian University, which just landed a $500,000 contract from the DOE to run a program to train principals for turnaround schools.
A DOE spokeswoman told the Indianapolis Star that Tina Bennett had no involvement in developing the program at the university, which has an enrollment of about 1,800 full- and part-time students.
Last month, the DOE announced the award of $15.5 million in School Improvement Grants to four of the state's lowest-achieving schools. Two of the four were charter schools and members of the Indiana Public Charter Schools Association.
Indiana's lax conflict of interest laws require only that state officials declare the name (or names, in this case) of a spouse's employer, which Tony Bennett dutifully did on his 2009 financial disclosure statement. Voters, however, should note that -- within a three-week period -- the Department of Education has awarded $3.85 million in grants and contracts to entities with close ties to the superintendent's wife.