Governor-elect Ron DeSantis on Thursday recommended former House Speaker Richard Corcoran to serve as Education Commissioner and oversee Florida’s mammoth education system — one of the largest in the country.
Corcoran would follow Pam Stewart, who has served since 2013. She announced earlier this week that she was stepping down and plans to retire.
The State Board of Education actually hires the Education Commissioner, so members must vote on the approval. The board’s next meeting is December 17.
“Richard is known as a non-nonsense reformer whose sole focus has been on how best to support students, parents and teachers,” DeSantis said in a statement.
“This issue is very personal to me. Casey and I believe that the future of our children and the future of all Florida’s children depend on our education system. I know Richard will never stop fighting until every child in Florida has access to a world-class education.”
The announcement is not a surprise, as word has floated over the past week that DeSantis would push for the former Republican House Speaker to head the department.
Corcoran, 53, has been one of the most powerful House Speakers in decades and has represented influential Pasco County in the state Legislature. An attorney, he graduated from a small law school at Regent University, a private Christian university. He’s been a champion of nontraditional charter schools and voucher programs that allow kids to go to private schools.
He’s a passionate supporter of school choice – the idea that students shouldn’t have to go to the school in their particular neighborhood.
The decision is a home run with the GOP base. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush called it a “forward-thinking appointment.”
“Richard will fearlessly challenge the entrenched status quo to ensure that every student has access to a high quality education,” said Bush, who focused intensely on education reform during his eight-year term as governor. “He is a champion of high-quality teaching and parent empowerment, and is a passionate advocate for expanding opportunity, especially for children most at risk.”
Corcoran was seriously considering a run for governor in 2018. But popular support for him never materialized, and he never officially entered the race. Instead he endorsed Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam for governor.
DeSantis made a second high-profile personnel hire on Thursday, naming Broward County Democratic state House Rep. Jared Moskowitz to serve as his director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management.
Moskowitz, 37, has experience in the field, having served as general counsel for AshBritt Environmental, a disaster management company, where he managed contracts for cleanup efforts after Hurricanes Sandy, Irma and Matthew impacted the state.
The pick was unusual given that DeSantis is a Republican and he chose to bring a Democrat to his team.
“Rep. Jared Moskowitz is the perfect choice to lead Florida’s Department of Emergency Management,” said Florida Democratic Party chair Terrie Rizzo. “He has proven himself to be an effective leader in the State House and his work in disaster response makes him prepared on day one to do the job.”
In addition, the Governor-elect will be visiting some of his constituents this weekend. His office announced Thursday that he’ll be making appearances this Saturday in three counties that strongly supported him in his narrow victory over Democrat Andrew Gillum.
The “Thank You Tour” will bring DeSantis, Lieutenant Governor-elect Jeanette Nunez and Attorney General-elect Ashley Moody to Pasco County and the Villages. DeSantis will then make a third appearance in Volusia County.
The Villages in Sumter County gave DeSantis a walloping 70 percent of the vote last month. In Pasco County, DeSantis won by 16 percentage points, and in Volusia, by 10 points.
“This historic win would not have been possible without the support of thousands of volunteers who believed in our vision for the state,” DeSantis said in a statement. “Thanks to their hard work and dedication, we are now preparing to take office and build on Florida’s success. The election was about a bold vision for Florida’s future and I look forward to celebrating our shared victory.”