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Florida's State Board Hires Former House Leader to Run Education Department

Florida's board of education has appointed former state House of Representatives Speaker Richard Corcoran to serve as the state's next education commissioner, angering the state's teachers union and school administrators' association along with several civil rights organizations.

After Republican Ron DeSantis was elected to be the state's next governor, the current commissioner, Pam Stewart, announced that she would leave at the end of this month.

DeSantis over the last several weeks had made it known to the public that he wanted Corcoran to serve as state chief, even though the board decides on who to run the state education department.

Several advocacy organizations in the state had urged the board to conduct a national search.

"We Floridians expect that you will appoint as Commissioner of Education a person who will expand equity and excellence in education in all of our FL schools leading to success in college, career, and civic life for each and every student in our diverse student population," said Mari Corugedo LULAC Florida's state director in a Dec. 7 letter addressed to DeSantis. "A hastily arrived at snap judgement is not likely to meet that expectation."  

But board members on Monday said Corcoran "checked all the boxes" and, after a few questions, voted him into office. 

The department this year has been tasked with rolling out two seperate school accountability systems: one for the state and another for the federal Education Department.  It will also be in charge of interpreting and overseeing new laws passed by the legislature in 2017 that deal with school choice and school spending. 

While the state's academic outcomes have ticked upward in recent years, many of its districts face teacher shortages, and advocates have long complained about the state's offerings for English-language learners. 

Corcoran, according to the Tampa Bay Times  is known in the state for being "an unbending ideologue who uses strong-arm politics to ram his priorities through the legislature. Many expect that as commissioner, Corcoran will take the Department of Education from a state agency focused on the daily grind of enforcement to a vocal driver of policy."


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