Will Florida Board of Education accept a DeSantis appointee as commissioner?

State law places selection of Florida's top education official in the board's hands.
The Florida Board of Education  meets Aug. 15, 2018, in Orlando, where it discusses budgets and turnaround plans, among other issues. [The Florida Channel]
The Florida Board of Education meets Aug. 15, 2018, in Orlando, where it discusses budgets and turnaround plans, among other issues. [The Florida Channel]
Published Dec. 5, 2018

The pieces appear to be falling into place for former Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran to become the state's next education commissioner.

Don Gaetz, considered a leading contender for the post, announced he didn't want the job and said he anticipated Corcoran's appointment. Pam Stewart, the current holder of the job, resigned effective Jan. 8 — the same day Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis takes his oath of office.

Corcoran and the DeSantis campaign have been mum. They've done nothing, though, to stop the spreading talk of Corcoran in charge.

But there's this: Florida statute authorizes the State Board of Education, not the governor, to name the commissioner. The governor picks the board, but not the education commissioner.

And the State Board has conducted national searches to fill the seat in past years.

In 2007, the board considered seven finalists from inside the state and out before choosing Eric Smith, a College Board senior vice president who led large school districts in Maryland and North Carolina before his selection.

In 2011, after Smith was squeezed out by Gov. Rick Scott — who seemed to want D.C. then-chancellor Michelle Rhee in the position — the board interviewed five candidates from across the nation, eventually picking Virginia Secretary of Education Gerard Robinson.

In 2012, after Robinson flamed out and resigned, the board again conducted a national search. It brought three finalists to Tampa for public interviews, picking Jeb Bush ally Tony Bennett, who recently had been voted out of the Indiana superintendent of public education job.

Stewart took the job on an interim basis in 2013, after Bennett resigned amid a political scandal back in Indiana. She accepted the post permanently a few months later.

Now she's on her way out. So the question lingers: Will the board hold another national search, as some including the Florida Education Association have requested? Or will it accede to the wishes of the incoming governor, and rubber stamp his recommendation?

We've emailed all seven board members asking their intention. So far, none have responded. We'll let you know if they do.

Otherwise, the board does have a conference call meeting scheduled for Dec. 17. It popped up on the schedule on Nov. 26, around the same time talk started swirling about whether Florida would have a new commissioner.

If nothing else, maybe the board will talk about its plans then. It hasn't published an agenda yet, and a Department of Education spokeswoman would not explain why the meeting was called.