SARASOTA (WWSB) - With his fierce support of charter schools and voucher-type programs, former House Speaker Richard Corcoran has been a controversial figure in Florida education circles.
Corcoran used his power as speaker the past two years to push through bills that pleased school-choice supporters, but angered many teachers and public-school officials. Now, Corcoran will be Florida's next education commissioner.
The State Board of Education met Monday in Tallahassee, and unanimously approved the former Republican lawmaker to succeed outgoing Commissioner Pam Stewart. Corcoran, who had the backing of Governor-elect Ron DeSantis, was the only candidate considered by the board.
Richard Corcoran, Incoming Commissioner of Education, said, "We want to expand choice. The 'one size fits all' doesn't work. 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."
"We'll say it today, we'll say it tomorrow, we'll say it forever. The whole focus is on giving every child the opportunity for a world-class education. They deserve no less. We will not be resting until we get that for every single child."
While the selection of the former speaker was hailed by many school choice proponents, others say 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. 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."
"What we don't want to see is somebody else creating standards, on our behalf. We are teachers. We are educators, and we have a voice. We know exactly what it takes to make change in these kids lives. We are not asked and we are not brought to the table. So, hopefully, under his administration, we will be able to do that," Ingram added.
The Commissioner of Education oversees 4,200 K-12 public schools that serve nearly 2.7 million students, while also working with state colleges.