Education leaders, public officials applaud Manny Díaz confirmation as Education Commissioner
¡Feliz Cumpleaños! to Manny Diaz, Jr.

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‘Sen. Díaz is the right person for the right job at the right time.’

It didn’t take long after the State Board of Education cast a unanimous vote Friday confirming Sen. Manny Díaz as the Florida’s next Commissioner of Education for congratulations to started pouring in.

Education professionals, stakeholders and elected officials both current and former were quick to laud Díaz’s ascension to Florida’s top education position.

Outgoing Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, who steps down Sunday after three years in the role, described Díaz as “an absolute warrior for students, parents and educators” who will serve effectively and honorably.

“I am grateful for the leadership of our Governor and the support of our State Board of Education and our Department’s staff, and I know Florida’s education system is in great hands with Manny Díaz,” he said.

Former Gov. Jeb Bush, chair of the education nonprofit Foundation for Florida’s Future, asserted that Florida students, families and educators will benefit greatly from Díaz’s experience.

“Throughout his career as an educator and as a leader in the Legislature, Manny Diaz has tirelessly sought to improve educational outcomes for all students. We have been proud to work with him as he led efforts to expand learning options for more students, elevate the teaching profession and eliminate bureaucratic burdens for public charter schools,” he said in a statement. “We look forward to working with Commissioner Díaz to help each Florida student earn the skills to thrive in school and life.”

As was the case with many others, Bush also took to Twitter to hail Díaz’s confirmation.

Added former Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera: “He will do a great job!”

Madeline Pumariega, president of Miami Dade College, commended Gov. Ron DeSantis for recommending Díaz for the job.

“Leadership and experience matters,” she said. “Sen. Díaz is the right person for the right job at the right time.”

Seminole State College President Georgia Lorenz agreed.

“We look forward to his partnership and advocacy for our (Florida College System) as we work to advance academic and workforce education in our state,” she said.

A Hialeah Republican with a master’s degree in education from Nova Southeastern University, Díaz has served in the Florida Legislature since 2012 and chaired several education committees.

He’s a career educator, having worked as a public-school teacher, coach, assistant principal and school administrator. He’s also been a staunch advocate for school choice and led a push for legislation expanding voucher programs and easing controls over charter schools.

Díaz is the current vice president of financial affairs at Doral College, a school affiliated with and funded by charter schools and charter school management companies.

Between May 1 and June 1, when Díaz will vacate his Senate seat and become Education Commissioner, Public Schools Chancellor Jacob Oliva will work as Interim Commissioner.

Florida Association of District School Superintendents CEO Bill Montford, a Democratic former state Senator who served as Vice Chair during Díaz’s chairmanship of the Senate Committee on Education, described Díaz as a strong, committed advocate for the children of Florida.

“I know him to be a person of integrity and always open to seriously considering opposing viewpoints,” he added.

Board of Education Chair Tom Grady said he looks forward to working with Díaz on providing the best educational opportunities to students in the state.

“Manny Díaz has fought to put students and families first during his tenure in the Florida Legislature, and we are excited to support the Governor’s recommendation to have him stepping into the role of Commissioner of Education,” he said.

Board of Education Vice Chair Ben Gibson said, “As a father, I take seriously our responsibility to appoint a commissioner who will guarantee our students receive the very best education. It is evident Manny Díaz will be a leader whose decisions are made in the best interest of today’s students and future generations.”

Republican U.S. Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart offered “A huge congrats.”

“This unanimous confirmation is a testament to Manny’s devotion (and) dedication to our education system (and) our students,” he said on Twitter. “I look forward to witnessing all the great things he’ll accomplish.”

Hialeah Republican Rep. Tom Fabricio was concise in his praise.

“The future of education in Florida is in great hands,” he said.

Jacksonville Beach Republican Rep. Cord Byrd, who noted his and Díaz’s longstanding friendship, said, “So proud of him!”

Polk State College President Angela Garcia Falconetti, who chairs the Florida College System Council of Presidents, said, “I am positive Sen. Díaz will serve as an exceptional Commissioner of Education who keeps students and their success at the forefront. We look forward to serving alongside Sen. Díaz to advance academic and workforce programs for our state.”

Said Tallahassee Community College President Jim Murdaugh, a former Council of Presidents chair, “We appreciate Sen. Díaz and his time in the Legislature, his advocacy for important policy issues and his staunch support of funding necessary for our system to continue to be the driving force that provides talent to employees throughout the state of Florida.”

St. Petersburg College President Karen Moore, a former chair of the Trustee Commission, highlighted Díaz’s support of student success, choice, access and affordability.

“I applaud Gov. DeSantis and the State Board of Education for selecting Sen. Díaz for this important job.”

Collier County Public Schools Superintendent Kamela Patton: “Sen. Diaz is an ardent supporter of public education whom I’ve had the pleasure to work with in Miami-Dade County and in my current role. As a lifelong educator, he always puts students first and I have no doubt that Florida’s schools will benefit greatly from his outstanding leadership and experience.”

Skylar Zander, state director for Americans for Prosperity, said Díaz “consistently puts students first, focuses on all opportunities, and engages with members of both parties to pass transformative education reform.”

“I am confident that under his leadership, Florida will remain a national leader for education.”

Zander continued, “Manny Díaz Jr. has spearheaded positive education reform in the state during his time as a legislator, educator, principal, and administrator. Americans for Prosperity has worked closely with him on reform issues for many years and is certain that Diaz will provide modern solutions to education problems in our state.”

Glen Glizean, president and CEO of the Central Florida Urban League, spoke of Díaz’s “impressive track record” in education and talent in leadership.

“I am certain he will continue serving Florida in a distinguished manner and that he will work to provide students with a world-class education,” he said.

Bob Ward, president and CEO of the Florida Council of 100, said DeSantis and the Board of Education made a wise choice.

“Sen. Diaz is uniquely qualified to lead the largest state agency in Florida, one with the breadth that stretches the entire state and impacts every Floridian,” he said. “Florida is fortunate to have his seasoned leadership and his longstanding support of both parents and students as he takes the helm of the agency.”

Former Collier County School Board Member Erika Donalds, who now runs the Optima Foundation, a nonprofit for school choice, said Díaz “will promote commonsense policies, accountability and education freedom in our state.”

Former Brevard County School Board Member Tina Descovich said Florida is “blessed” to have Díaz as its head education honcho.

Former Lee County Commissioner Vicki Lopez, who is now running for the seat representing Senate District 38, added, “We are fortunate to have you continue your great work in education!”

Many other messages of congratulations were posted to Twitter. Among them:

___

Renzo Downey and Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics contributed to this report.

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


One comment

  • Logan

    April 30, 2022 at 5:04 pm

    Congratulations, all Republicans can get behind this appointment because Florida is one step closer to destroying public education! Just like Betsy DeVos was appointed Education Secretary to destroy it on the national level, the fox is appointed to guard the hen house in Florida.

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