by Félix Pérez
Florida educators are sounding the alarm over the choice of the incoming governor to lead the state’s department of education, who spearheaded legislation as speaker of the Florida House of Representatives to expand privately operated charter schools and private school vouchers and approve a “starvation budget” for public schools.
Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis announced last Thursday that he will recommend Richard Corcoran to become the new Florida Education Commissioner. The recommendation must be approved by the state Board of Education, whose members are appointed by the governor.
The Florida Education Association, comprised of more than 140,000 teachers, education staff professionals, graduate assistants, and college and university faculty, is calling on the Board of Education to conduct a national search for a highly qualified education professional dedicated to public school students. Fedrick Ingram, a Dade County music teacher and FEA president, said Corcoran, like Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, is unqualified and has an anti-public education agenda. Corcoran supported DeVos’s nomination and signed a letter to the U.S. Senate praising her.
Ingram told radio news station WFSU that Corcoran “has been one of those people who has squarely put it in his sights to advance the position of charter schools and vouchers and things that promote something other than what we know as public education.” Ingram said Corcoran, while serving as House speaker from 2016 to 2018, sought to “lessen the voice of educators, to not a give a voice to those people who know the students best.” He added that Corcoran was behind the “biggest expansion of charter schools that we’ve seen in Florida’s history.” Corcoran, whose wife founded a charter school, is “best defined for his open hostility to public schools and is a crusader for charter schools and privatizing public education,” continued Ingram.
The editorial board of the Sun Sentinel, in a column titled “Richard Corcoran wrong for public schools, right for GOP,” wrote, “Richard Corcoran for state education commissioner? Sure. Why not make Tallahassee’s hostility to public education even more apparent?”
FEA has set up a website to collect signatures from Floridians who want the Board of Education to conduct a national search for a highly qualified education professional. It reads in part, “Florida’s students need a leader of our public education system who knows public schools, who understands how our students learn and the needs of education staff. They do not need a political insider or someone dedicated to using public tax dollars for private or for-profit education.”
The Board of Education is scheduled to meet for a conference call on Dec. 17.