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Catholic education gets a major boost as diocese appoints Robert Bennett to advisory council

New York State’s loss is Catholic education’s gain. After Western New York legislators muscled Robert M. Bennett off the Board of Regents – to the detriment of millions of students – Bishop Richard J. Malone appointed him last week to the Diocese of Buffalo’s Catholic School Advisory Council. It’s hard to imagine the council finding a source of greater expertise, and getting it at the bargain-basement price of zero dollars.

Bennett will serve as a volunteer on the board, bringing with him his background as a 20-year member of the Board of Regents and a 15-year leader of the United Way of Buffalo & Erie County, and an upbringing in Catholic education, from elementary school through college. He is a prize find for the diocese, one on which the state of New York unaccountably turned its back.

Bennett is as active and sharp a leader as anyone can imagine. He is, in that regard, living proof that age – Bennett is 74 – is not any kind of disqualifier. In his case, in fact, it’s an asset, allowing him to bring a range of experience and knowledge to the challenging task of stabilizing the financially stressed system of Catholic education in Western New York.

Bennett, who previously served as chancellor of the Board of Regents, was one of the rocks of public education in New York. He served honorably and with distinction. He was one of the few public servants in whom it was possible to place something like complete trust.

His interest was in improving education in New York and especially in Buffalo, and to those ends, he did what was right. For that and other reasons, most Democrats in the Western New York legislative delegation rejected his bid for another term. They didn’t like his support of the Common Core, of teacher evaluations and, in short, of high standards for everyone in education. That’s politics in the state of New York.

Instead, Catholic school administrators, teachers and students will benefit from Bennett’s passion for excellence. They are fortunate in that, and we expect that Bennett will make an indelible mark there, just as he has in his other services to the cause of education. Malone has done well for his diocese, thanks in large part to the regrettable action by this area’s state legislative delegation.