Former House Speaker Richard Corcoran appears to be on track to become the state’s next Education Commissioner, according to sources familiar with Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis‘ transition plans.
Corcoran’s appointment, if made final, would add another voice in support of school choice programs to a major leadership role in the state government.
Senate Education Committee Chair Manny Diaz also signaled his plans to push for such programs during his tenure. Eustis Republican state Rep. Jennifer Sullivan will take the reins of the Education Committee in the House and has in the past voted for school-choice measures.
POLITICO cited “an education industry source familiar with the conversations,” surrounding the Commissioner pick who says that the “scuttlebutt in the education world is that DeSantis is making phone calls to education leaders letting them know of the upcoming appointment.”
Technically, the state’s Board of Education will make the appointment. The board members are selected by the Governor, however.
Corcoran would replace outgoing Education Commissioner Pam Stewart, who had planned to retire once Gov. Rick Scott‘s current term ends.
Stewart announced last month, however, that she would stay in the role for another year. According to POLITICO, it’s not clear whether Corcoran’s potential appointment will affect those plans.
Corcoran, who endorsed DeSantis’ rival, Adam Putnam, in the gubernatorial primary, was vocal in his support of DeSantis’ school choice plans during the general election.
“Ron DeSantis will work to ensure that our tax dollars will be prioritized to reduce teacher shortages and reward great teachers with great salaries, not to funding wasteful education bureaucracy,” Corcoran said.
Corcoran’s legacy as Speaker is in part defined by a series of landmark, pro-school-choice changes to statewide education.
During the 2017 Legislative Session, the Land O’ Lakes Republican championed The “Schools of Hope” plan. The eventual law provided for “hope operators,” who could set up charter schools within 5 miles of “persistently” low-performing public schools. It also provided money for traditional low-performing public schools. A lawsuit currently moving through the courts challenges the law, known as HB 7069, claiming it is unconstitutional because it infringes on the decision-making powers of local districts. A circuit court judge, however, already has upheld the law. An appeal is pending.
Another school choice measure that passed under Corcoran’s watch came earlier this year. Among other things, the House’s K-12 education bill provided “hope scholarships” for bullied students to transfer to private school or cover transportation costs to attend a public school in another district.
In 2017, Florida Politics named Corcoran Politician of the Year. Then, it was speculated the Speaker would run for Governor. But despite debating eventual Democratic nominee Andrew Gillum earlier this year and posting strong fundraising numbers through his Watchdog PAC, Corcoran never entered the race.
During an interview with Florida Politics for the Politician of the Year story, the Speaker paraphrased Socrates.
“He’s got tons of good lines,” Corcoran said. “He gave one that said, ‘show me who’s teaching your kids and I’ll show you the future.'”
Reporting contributed by the News Service of Florida and Florida Politics Tallahassee correspondent Danny McAuliffe.