Readers may recall that outgoing Indiana State Superintendent Tony Bennett left behind a videoconferencing system that cost $1.7 million and was utterly useless because it was incompatible with the department’s existing technology. The expensive technology was purchased from Cisco Systems, which by happy coincidence employs Bennett’s former chief of staff Todd Huston.

Karen Francisco of the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette notes that the useless videoconferencing system is symptomatic of Bennett’s most important legacy: a full-bore assault on Indiana’s public school system.

She asks:

“Is the spin that is used to justify the questionable $1.7 million deal any different from the claims he used to expand charter schools, to shift tax dollars to private schools through voucher payments, to strip collective bargaining rights for teachers or require third-graders to pass a standardized reading test before moving on to fourth grade?

“Aside from his former chief of staff’s job with Cisco, Bennett’s ties to corporate interests have become increasingly clear. A nonprofit group in January released thousands of emails revealing the Foundation for Excellence in Education’s efforts in working with state officials, including Bennett, in writing education laws to benefit the foundation’s corporate supporters. The foundation, started by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, has received financial support from for-profit companies like McGraw Hill, Pearson and K12 and the nonprofit College Board, Huston’s current employer.

“The complex web of ties between corporate influences, Bennett’s administration and the raft of legislation should give lawmakers every reason to halt the continuing tide of education bills, including several sponsored by Huston. Demanding research-based evidence of the effectiveness of laws already passed and simply giving schools time to implement and evaluate them could save legislators some embarrassment later.”