Florida governor recommends state Sen. Manny Diaz Jr. as next education commissioner

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has recommended education choice champion Manny Diaz Jr. to succeed Richard Corcoran as the state’s next education commissioner.

In making the announcement, DeSantis praised Diaz for his commitment to education issues ranging from teacher pay to parental rights and choice.

“Manny Diaz has done a great job in the Legislature fighting for educational choice and keeping indoctrination out of our schools,” DeSantis said in a released statement. “I am confident that he will serve our state well as the Commissioner of Education.

Diaz, R-Hialeah Gardens, has served in the Florida Legislature since he was elected to the House of Representatives in 2012. He won election to the Florida Senate in 2018 and has served as chairman of the Education Committee and as vice chairman of the Senate Education Appropriations Committee.

During his service, he has sponsored bills such HB 7045 to expand existing education choice programs and created new programs such as the Hope Scholarship.

In the most recent legislative session, Diaz sponsored Senate Bill 758, which is awaiting the governor’s signature. The bill would establish a statewide institute for charter school innovation and a statewide commission to review charter school applications. The bill also would prohibit the closing of charter schools “without cause” and exempt properties that allow charter schools to use their space from additional land use requirements.

Last year, Diaz introduced Senate Bill 48, which would have converted the state’s traditional scholarship programs to education savings accounts. The Legislature chose to adopt the House version of the bill, which nevertheless proved to be the nation’s largest expansion of education choice.

“Senator Diaz has long been a champion for using well-designed education choice programs to help public education fulfill the promise of equal opportunity,” Step Up For Students president Doug Tuthill said. “We’re looking forward to working with him in his new role.”

You can listen to a podcast with Tuthill and Diaz here.

The governor’s announcement drew praise from Senate President Wilton Simpson, who called Diaz as “a tremendous choice” and said his experience as an educator would serve him well in that role.

“I am confident Senator Diaz is the right leader as we continue to implement historic school choice initiatives that will increase competition within our public school system,” said Simpson, R-Spring Hill. “Senator Diaz is a proven leader with a track record of success. The Senate’s loss would be Florida’s gain with Senator Diaz as our commissioner of education.”

A native of South Florida, Diaz, now an administrator at Doral College, earned a bachelor’s degree in human resources in 1994 from St. Thomas University. He received a master’s degree in educational leadership in 1998 from Nova Southeastern University.

In 2006, Diaz completed a general education development program from the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Summer Urban Principal’s Institute.

He and his wife, Jennifer, have four children.

Diaz must secure a vote from the Florida Board of Education before taking the position.

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BY Lisa Buie

Lisa Buie is senior reporter for NextSteps. The daughter of a public school superintendent, she spent more than a dozen years as a reporter and bureau chief at the Tampa Bay Times before joining Shriners Hospitals for Children — Tampa, where she served for nearly five years as marketing and communications manager. She lives with her husband and their teenage son, who has benefited from education choice.