Michael Bennet was born on November 28, 1964 and is the junior Senator from Colorado. He was appointed on January 21. 2009 to the United States Senate for the term ending January 3, 2011, to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Kenneth L. Salazar. Bennet took the oath of office on January 22, 2009.
Bennet previously served as the Superintendent of the Denver Public Schools from 2005 to 2009. As a dedicated public servant with comprehensive experience as a businessman, Bennet has a proven record of facing tough tasks at critical times. As Superintendent, Bennet worked to improve student achievement and classroom performance, while also overseeing a halt to years of budgetary cuts in the Denver Public Schools. While serving as Chief of Staff to Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, Bennet was credited with leading the way on balancing a historic budget deficit. Prior to his service to the city, Bennet was a Managing Director at the Anschutz Investment Company, where he managed the restructuring of over $3 billion in corporate debt.
Almost four years ago, Bennet inherited a School District whose achievement rates were flat and, where, for year after year, budgets were cut. With the help of Denver Public Schools’ principals and teachers, Bennet turned this around. Achievement and graduation rates are up, with Denver’s kids growing faster than all the kids in the state on every single test at every single grade level with the exception of one math test.
As Superintendent, Bennet worked hard to end the annual cycle of budget cuts at the Denver Public Schools. 2008 was the first in five years that the district did not have to cut its budget, and in 2009 Denver was able to invest an additional $18 million in its schools and classrooms to enrich the academic environment for children. As a result, programs such as comprehensive Early Childhood Education have been enacted allowing over 2,000 four year olds to now have a full day Early Childhood Education. Additionally, for the first time in Denver’s history, over 90% of five year olds have access to full-day kindergarten. These improvements are closing the achievement gap suffered by low-income children.
Bennet, working with the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, revolutionized Procomp, a system of differentiated pay that pays teachers more for driving student achievement, serving in a high poverty school, or bringing a special set of talents, like the teaching of math or special education. Although the changes proposed were controversial, nearly 80% of Denver’s teachers voted for the new proposal.
Prior to serving as Superintendent of the Denver Public Schools, Bennet served for two years as Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper’s Chief of Staff. Bennet oversaw the balancing of an historic budget deficit, the renegotiation of several collective bargaining agreements, and a complete redesign of the police oversight function. Bennet, along with the Mayor, was widely credited with putting together a first rate, diverse team to lead the City through unprecedented fiscal challenges.
Before joining Mayor Hickenlooper’s administration, Bennet was a Managing Director of the Anschutz Investment Company, where he had direct responsibility for the investment of over $500 million. He led the reorganization of four distressed companies including Forcenergy (which later merged with Denver-based Forest Oil), Regal Cinemas, United Artists, and Edwards Theaters, which together required the restructuring of over $3 billion in debt. Bennet also managed, on behalf of Anschutz, the consolidation of the three theater chains into Regal Entertainment Group, the largest motion picture exhibitor in the world.
Prior to moving to Denver, Bennet served as Counsel to the Deputy Attorney General at the Department of Justice during the Clinton Administration.
Bennet earned his bachelor’s degree with honors from Wesleyan University and his law degree from Yale Law School, where he was Editor-in-Chief of The Yale Law Journal.
Bennet married Susan Daggett, a successful natural resources lawyer, in 1997. Michael and Susan are the proud parents of three daughters, Caroline, Halina, and Anne.
Though not raised in an observant household, Bennet acknowledges his family's Jewish roots. His grandparents were both imprisoned in the Warsaw Ghetto in Poland and smuggled his mother, then a baby, out of the ghetto through an underground network. Bennet's grandmother escaped with nuns and sought refuge in a convent. His grandfather hid in different parts of the ghetto until the liquidation and forced deportation of inhabitants to labor camps. His grandparents and mother arrived in New York in 1950.
Source: Biographical Directory of the United States Congress; Rocky Mountain News; Senator Michael Bennet, U.S. Senate