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Tony Bennett's heart is in San Francisco

Education conferences might seem like unlikely targets of protest, but not if they include the likes of Rupert Murdoch and Jeb Bush. The Occupy Wall Street movement and teacher unions joined forces to protest the event sponsored by Bush's Foundation for Excellence in Education. As the Washington Post reports, the foundation supports school vouchers, charter schools, performance pay for teachers and digital learning.

The latter is clearly Murdoch's interest. His News Corp. operation, clouded by the phone-hacking scandal in Great Britain, last year bought Wireless Generation, a company that provides software and services to K-12 schools, including Indiana schools.

The tech revolution in schools means there is a fortune to be made from public revenues, and corporate types are rushing in.

"In August, New York's comptroller rejected a $27 million contract with the educational technology company because of the phone-hacking scandal involving News Corp.'s British newspapers," the Post reports.

Indiana schools chief Tony Bennett is a panelist at the Palace Hotel event, and several of his staff members apparently joined him on the trip, including Assistant Superintendent Dale Chu, tweeting under "@chewytrain."

A few of chewytrain's fascinating observations about his boss and others:

LOL! @Chiefs4Change chair @Tony_Bennett: "Can big bird please stand up? We want some attention like Murdoch got."

Amen! NJ chief Chris Cerf to Murdoch: "Thank you for the tremendous dignity with which you handled our 1st Amendment friends."

My hero! @INEducation DCOS Marcie Brown rips goofy sesame street mask from unwanted intruder.

Great response to these hecklers: "Go back to school!"

Murdoch: "A little controversy makes things more interesting." Well said!

Rude! Unwelcome heckler gets escorted out of this morning's @ExcelinEd session with Rupert Murdoch.

@JebBush says hanging with celebrities is "not my bag baby." Behave!!!

Just got my pic with @khanacademy founder Sal Khan! I can now die a happy #EdReformer

WOW! Really obnoxious reporter just tried to derail the session. Kudos to Checker Finn for giving him the boot!

Watching Anne Bryant, (executive director of National School Boards Association), defend indefensible tickles me for some reason. Perhaps b/c we've seen this show before

Joel Klein's succinct take on school boards: "They don't work."

Klein says "The evidence is in. The evidence is clear. School brd governance model hasn't worked. We can't 'meet' our way 2 success"

Klein: "Most school boards I know resist choice. They like the monopoly."

Gene Maeroff, prez of Edison NJ brd, says, "School boards may not be essential to the operation of schools." You think?

Overheard after the end of the first @ExcelinEd session: "That @Tony_Bennett tells it like it is... and I like it!"

Good point! @Tony_Bennett challenges ed reform opponents to show how their "plan" is better for kids.

@Tony_Bennett: Problem with RttT is it was like whiskey for alcoholics. Must align ed & fiscal policies

The three tenets. @Tony_Bennett: "We built our entire #edreform agenda around competition, freedom, and accountability."

Ind. Supt. Tony Bennett - Relentless pressure generally applied yields results.

Some other tweets from the conference:

Tony Bennett, IN superintendent calls state budget crises "the best thing that's happened to us" bc it allows for ed reform overhaul.

Indiana schools chief talking about the many benefits of restricting collective bargaining with teachers' unions.

Karen Francisco, editorial page editor for The Journal Gazette, has been an Indiana journalist since 1981. She writes frequently about education for The Journal Gazette opinion pages and here, where she looks at the business, politics and science of learning as it relates to northeast Indiana, the state and the nation. She can be reached at 260-461-8206 or by e-mail at