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Commissioner appointment on tap for Florida Board of Education

The item is up for discussion at a meeting Monday.
The Florida Board of Education meets in Pinellas County on May 16, 2018. [Jeffrey S. Solochek | Times]
Published Dec. 10, 2018

The possible confirmation of former Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran as the state's next education commissioner appears on a fast track.

The Board of Education, which left its October 25 session with no plans to convene again until after the new year, has posted a three-item agenda for a Dec. 17 morning business meeting in Tallahassee.

Two of the items focus on school turnaround plans.

The third is listed simply as "Consideration of the Appointment of Commissioner of Education."

There's no backup material provided. But it's well known already that incoming Gov. Ron DeSantis wants Corcoran in the position, which Pam Stewart agreed to leave effective Jan. 8.

Stewart had accepted a one-year extension on her tenure when it appeared possible Democrat Andrew Gillum might win the governor's race. With DeSantis coming to office, she said, she no longer needs to remain to ensure the continuation of the policies and philosophies such as choice and test-based accountability that Gov. Rick Scott had amplified during his eight years.

Board members did not respond to reporter questions about whether they would hold a search for the job, or accept DeSantis' nomination. The board is by statute the agency with the sole authority to pick the education commissioner.

But chairwoman Marva Johnson signaled in other media that she was open to Corcoran's appointment. And several others have joined the DeSantis transition team, indicating their support for his positions.

Groups including the Florida Education Association and the League of Women Voters, meanwhile, have advocated for a national search to find the state's next commissioner, similar to when the board filled vacancies in 2007, 2011 and 2012.

Whoever gets the job will face some key initiatives that DeSantis has said he wishes to pursue, such as a closer examination of the state curriculum — an issue that has groups such as the Florida Citizens for Science worried because of his inclusion of two Florida Citizens Alliance members on his advisory team.

Related coverage: Gradebook podcast: Inside the debate over Florida textbooks 

The commissioner will have to work with the board in defining what is meant by spending "in the classroom," where DeSantis has said he wants to direct 80 percent of funding.

If approved, Corcoran also will have to find a way to keep working closely with a Legislature he no longer has direct control over, with members whom he may have rubbed the wrong way during a strong-willed leadership tenure.

The meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday and will be streamed on the Florida Channel.

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