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Richard Corcoran announces he's leaving DOE. A South Florida lawmaker could replace him

Richard Corcoran
Wilfredo Lee
Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran is a former Speaker of the Florida House. He is a Republican who was appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis and approved by the State Board of Education.

Hialeah Republican Sen. Manny Diaz could replace Richard Corcoran as state education commissioner. Corcoran announced Wednesday he will step down from his position at the end of April.

In a statement issued by the Florida Department of Education announcing his resignation, Corcoran praised Gov. Ron DeSantis for his response to the pandemic and the decision to re-open schools.

“Like the rest of the nation, Florida’s school districts have had to weather some of the greatest difficulties they have ever experienced over the past two years, and I couldn’t think of a better governor to serve,” said Commissioner Corcoran. “Governor DeSantis has been the governor Florida deserves – he has unquestionably been the right leader, at the right time, in the greatest state in the nation, and I thank him and the members of the State Board of Education from the bottom of my heart for the faith they have put in me.”

Corcoran’s departure from DOE has been telegraphed for some time. Throughout the legislative session there had been rumblings that Corcoran could be on the way out. In response to a January inquiry about Corcoran’s status, DeSantis spokeswoman Christina Pushaw said, “the governor has full confidence in Corcoran.”

The question came amid the fallout from a DOE probe that found a department official and state board of education member tried to steer a contract regarding Jefferson County Schools to themselves. The contract was originally written for an associate of Corcoran’s.

Last year the commissioner was a finalist for the Florida State University presidency—a job that went to someone else. He has most recently been tied to the University of Florida’s presidential search.

Diaz, a Miami Republican with strong charter school ties, has routinely been mentioned as a favorite to succeed Corcoran. WFSU asked Diaz about his interest in leading DOE.

“I mean it’s, it just announced today. It was a surprise to all of us and we still got work to do in the Senate, so we’ll see what happens.”

Diaz carried several important education bills for the governor this session. Critics say one measure he sponsored is intended to whitewash the teaching of history in schools and stifle workplace diversity training.

In an interview with the Tampa Bay Times, Corcoran said he intended to leave sooner but stayed longer because of the pandemic.

Sarah Mueller is a journalist who has worked for media outlets in several states since 2010. She earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2010 and worked as a print reporter covering local government and politics.