Former Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who once called the state teachers union "downright evil
" for opposing a voucher-like program that
gives business tax credits for paying children's private school tuition, was just appointed Florida education commissioner.
The Associated Press
reports the Republican politician was approved unanimously by the state Board of Education on Monday after being recommended to the position by Governor-elect Ron DeSantis.
During his time in the Legislature, Corcoran spearheaded efforts to fund the charter and private schools with taxpayer dollars – advancing legislation for the "schools of hope" program to let charter schools set up camp near struggling public schools and "hope scholarships" to let bullied students transfer to private school using publicly funded vouchers.
Despite Corcoran claiming he never made "one penny
" by affiliating himself with these industries, his brother Michael Corcoran
is a lobbyist
for a charter school management company, Accelerated Learning Solutions
, and his wife Anne Corcoran helped found a charter school that reportedly pays her $1 a year
to be CEO.
Corcoran was also behind efforts to ban "sanctuary cities
" in Florida (which don't exist) and is responsible for a blatantly racist political ad
that depicts a white woman being gunned down in a Florida suburb by a dark-haired "illegal immigrant" stalking her.
Unlike past appointments, the state Board of Education did not conduct a nationwide search for a new commissioner, despite Corcoran having no background in education. The League of Women Voters of Florida argues the board has a "duty" to children and parents to conduct a thorough search for a qualified candidate.
"Unfortunately, the circumstances surrounding this appointment do nothing to alleviate the concerns of everyday Floridians that this is simply 'politics as usual,'" LWVF president Patricia Brigham said in a statement.
The Florida Education Association added that Corcoran has not made public schools a priority and "has expanded tax-funded private school vouchers and presided over a starvation budget" for public schools, according to the News Service of Florida
"His focus is privatization of our schools," said Fedrick Ingram, president of the state's largest teachers union. "As public school teachers and education staff professionals, we put students at the center of everything we do. Politicians can’t be a champion for students and at the same time be at war with educators and public schools."
Reactions from Republican and Democratic leaders to Corcoran's recommendation and appointment were on opposite sides of the spectrum. While former Gov. Jeb Bush called Corcoran "a passionate advocate for expanding opportunity, especially for children most at risk," the Florida Democratic Party said "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," said FDP Chair Terrie Rizzo in a statement. "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."
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