Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis taps Richard Corcoran to be Commissioner of Education

 

Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis wants former House Speaker Richard Corcoran to be Florida’s next Commissioner of Education.

Thursday DeSantis announced he will recommend Corcoran to succeed Pam Stewart when Stewart steps down Jan. 8.

“Richard is known as a no-nonsense reformer whose sole focus has been how best to support students, parents and teachers,” DeSantis said in a statement. “I know Richard will never stop fighting until every child in Florida has access to a world-class education.”

DeSantis’ education agenda is in line with the reforms Corcoran pushed as Speaker, including more school choice for parents, a re-examination of spending instead of tax increases and expansion of tax-credit scholarships for private schools.

More: Education fault lines separate Florida House, Senate

Corcoran backed two massive education bills in 2017 and 2018 that drew fire from a coalition of groups that opposed policies they viewed as a privatization of public education and the use of standardized tests to grade schools.

“Corcoran is a definitely an all-out school choice person. There is no room for public education in his agenda,” said Catherine Baer of the Tea Party Network.

The State Board of Education selects an education commissioner, but the governor appoints the board. Marva Johnson, the SBOE chair, said she looks forward to reviewing the Corcoran recommendation.

“He has the knowledge and experience to ensure continued success at the Department of Education and to protect Florida’s legacy as a national leader in education,” said Johnson. “He is truly passionate about helping all students get a world-class education.”

Corcoran has a bachelor’s from St. Leo University and a law degree from Regent University in Virginia.

Members of Opt-out Florida, an anti-standardized test group, are writing letters to the state board about better “possibilities than these people who are absolutely against public education.”

Common Ground Florida was said to be planning a meeting about the Corcoran recommendation.

As speaker, Corcoran championed a program that allows private-management companies to take over public schools that fare poorly on accountability standards, expansion of a tax-credit scholarship program to include bullied students and made it easier to decertify a teachers’ union.

The Florida Education Association views much of the Corcoran agenda as Speaker as hostile to public education and has requested the board conduct a national search for a commissioner as it has done with previous commissioners.

Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, looks at the confusion created by Stewart’s unexpected resignation – the board had extended her contract in October – and the criticism provoked by the Corcoran recommendation and observed that Florida needs a better procedure to find candidates to be an education commissioner.

“There is a well-defined process in which Supreme Court Justices are vetted and selected. Don’t we deserve at least that much consideration for public education?” asked Montford, vice-chair of the Senate Education Committee.

“Why not put as much emphasis on a commissioner as we do in the selection of a Supreme Court justice?  Why not have a very regimented well-defined process in which we select the very best person.”

The State Board of Education has scheduled a conference call meeting for Dec. 17.  An agenda has yet to be released.

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