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Richard Corcoran Is Florida's New Education Commissioner

Richard Corcoran

Florida’s combative former House speaker is going to become the state’s education commissioner.

The State Board of Education voted unanimously on Monday to select Richard Corcoran of Land O'Lakes for the job. The board took the step after Governor-elect Ron DeSantis recommended the long-time Republican politician for the position. Corcoran just wrapped up a two-year term as House speaker.

Corcoran, who is an attorney, will succeed Commissioner Pam Stewart in January. Stewart had planned to remain on the job for several more months, but changed her plans once DeSantis backed Corcoran.

Corcoran was the only candidate considered by the board.

“We want to expand choice. The ‘one size fits all’ doesn’t work," Corcoran said. "Everyone has different modes of learning and different ways of succeeding. Who knows that best is parents. We need to empower the parents, empower the students, and give them opportunities to learn.”

Corcoran's selection was hailed by many school choice proponents. But others said many of the measures supported by Corcoran could be detrimental to traditional public schools and students. 

Fedrick Ingram is president of the Florida Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union. He says educators need more of a voice is shaping state policy.

“Bring the teachers to the table so that we can converse, so that he understands," Ingram said. "We want to educate Mr. Corcoran, because we know that he is not an educator. The fact that he is not an educator doesn’t mean that he can’t do the job, but he’s got some learning to do. Our teachers can do that.”

His thoughts were echoed by this statement from the Florida Democratic Party Chair Terrie Rizzo:

"No one has done more to hurt Florida's public schools while serving in the Florida Legislature than Richard Corcoran. His legacy consists of demonizing educators, and giving money to unaccountable, for-profit charter schools, including one that is run by his wife. As Education Commissioner he will continue his mission of destroying our public school system. His appointment as Education Commissioner is a disservice to our children and all Floridians."

State officials have not yet negotiated a salary for Corcoran. Stewart is paid $276,000 a year.

Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.
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