Meet DeSantis’ pick for education commissioner: Manny Diaz Jr.

ByAlyssa R. Elliott

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TALLAHASSEE — When Gov. Ron DeSantis was hunting for the upcoming man or woman to operate Florida’s schooling section, he turned to 1 of the state’s loudest school preference supporters: Manny Diaz Jr.

The 49-12 months-previous Republican, a condition senator from Hialeah and previous instructor, had been the long-rumored choose to switch Richard Corcoran, a firebrand former Dwelling speaker who reshaped the job of Florida education commissioner through his 4-yr term.

Corcoran, with a consider-no-prisoners attitude, carried out lots of factors of DeSantis’ schooling agenda. He fought to broaden the charter faculty sector and faculty vouchers, which fork out for pupils to attend private colleges.

And in the pandemic period, he led the demand on reopening schools following briefly shutting them down, punished local school board customers who supported stringent mask mandates, publicly quarreled with President Joe Biden’s administration and tackled head-on the classroom culture war fights that have turn into so emblematic of DeSantis’ political persona.

Diaz, who is poised to be confirmed by the Condition Board of Education and learning on Friday, will come into a Florida instruction process that has been reshaped by the pandemic and is now a wedge issue in politics as local school officials experience improved scrutiny from Republican lawmakers, activists and some mother or father teams.

He will also enter the scene as DeSantis seeks reelection in November, and a opportunity run for the White House, with training as a main concentration.

A partner and father of 4 — which include three college-age daughters who go to constitution educational institutions and a 23-year-outdated son who graduated from Columbus High University and later Florida Worldwide College — Diaz was formed by an education and learning at Miami Springs Senior Superior. He gained a bachelor’s diploma from St. Thomas College, a master’s degree in instruction from Nova Southeastern and completed a Harvard Graduate University of Training system for principals.

Diaz, a moderate-mannered lawmaker with deep-rooted ties to charter college operators, aligns with the governor’s training agenda. He designs to continue advocating for the GOP mantra about college option, better parental regulate and the battle towards what Republicans simply call the indoctrination of kids in the classroom.

But he suggests his management type will likely be “a very little different” than Corcoran’s. He could possibly not be in the general public eye as substantially.

“Even while I have not shied absent from creating responses to the media or anything at all like that, it is not my intent to be out in the forefront,” Diaz stated in an interview this week. “My intent is to fulfill the responsibilities of the commissioner and do my position.”

At the rear of the scenes, he expects the governor to be included in actions taken by the Division of Education and learning.

“He is the best executive of this state, he has had an agenda for training, and I am aligned with that agenda,” Diaz reported. “I am listening, and I will share my ideas with him as properly.”

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At the helm of the Section of Education and learning, Diaz would be overseeing many contentious schooling measures passed by lawmakers this calendar year that will have to have to be implemented in the following couple of a long time.

These consist of an overhaul to Florida’s K-12 testing program and a assessment and update of state criteria and educator methods in relation to the new “parental rights in education” legislation that critics have called the “don’t say gay” bill.

What background reveals about Diaz’s philosophy

Diaz has served in the Legislature for a ten years and given that 2013 he has been a vice president at Doral School, a non-public, nonprofit institution that presents highly developed programs at constitution colleges. Doral University is affiliated with Academica, a Miami-based for-gain contractor that offers administrative services to charter schools.

Diaz reported he plans to resign his write-up at Doral College to dedicate himself entire-time to the commissioner’s occupation.

Ahead of Doral College or university, Diaz taught social studies at Hialeah-Miami Lakes for 4 many years setting up in 1995 and went on to develop into an assistant principal there from 1999 to 2007.

In January 2021, Diaz was accused by a number of former college students at Hialeah-Miami Lakes Senior Significant of performing inappropriately about girls whilst he was a teacher, like making remarks on girls’ appearances and chatting to learners about executing ecstasy at Miami golf equipment. Diaz denied the allegations and said the assaults have been politically inspired, “baseless and defamatory.” No additional action came right after the accusations were being created.

In the Legislature, he very first served in the Florida Dwelling and moved to the Senate in 2018. He chaired the Senate Instruction Committee for numerous several years. Following that, he continued to sponsor instruction charges — many of them backed by DeSantis — that drew the praise of Republicans and the ire of Democrats.

In some instances, he found frequent floor with lawmakers of both of those functions. In 2020, for case in point, Diaz sponsored laws that became the car for a years-extended hard work to improve Florida teachers’ bare minimum salaries to $47,500 — a precedence for DeSantis given that he took business office.

“I have worked on amendments and costs with Manny that he has been incredibly beneficial — in the types that we can concur on — and he achieved me in the center with things that ended up incredibly controversial,” reported Senate Training Committee Vice Chair Shevrin Jones, a West Park Democrat. “I hope he will acquire that exact same strength around to the Department of Education and learning.”

Other Democrats are not much too enthused he was picked for the state’s top rated education and learning article, noting his extensive historical past of advocating to develop school selection.

“Sen. Diaz is a person who has been a fervent chief in privatization of general public education and learning,” claimed condition Rep. Anna Eskamani, an Orlando Democrat. “I’m involved it’s likely to be far more of the similar partisan weaponization of schooling.”

Diaz’s education and learning philosophy is centered on preference. As commissioner, he said that will be the guiding article.

“I think our work as a state is not to drive mother and father into any certain choice. It is to make all those possibilities readily available and permit them make people possibilities,” he mentioned. “And certainly, go on to strive to have the finest general public college program as a entire to supply moms and dads with those selections.”

For a long time, Diaz has advocated for sweeping college option steps in the Legislature. In the earlier two several years, he sought to build publicly funded schooling cost savings accounts to support family members fork out for private tuition and other bills and served move laws that dramatically expanded the Florida Spouse and children Empowerment Scholarship voucher application, which DeSantis pushed to develop soon following getting workplace.

This calendar year, he also carried a monthly bill to overhaul the state’s tests technique, a method that will be overseen by the Department of Schooling, and legislation that designed a new overall body inside the section to make it perhaps less complicated to get constitution schools accredited and renewed. It is the latest exertion by Republican lawmakers to get additional constitution faculties permitted in the condition by creating state-stage authorization, a concept that was beforehand observed unconstitutional in courtroom.

“I wholeheartedly believe that that we have a big role for our general public schooling and our public faculties,” Diaz reported. “But exactly where I think I have differing views from some others is that I do believe that the dad and mom should be equipped to make the decision no matter of ZIP code, no matter of their monetary problem, or what ideal matches the youngster.”

A concentrate on mothers and fathers and indoctrination

As one particular of DeSantis’ top allies in the Legislature, Diaz has embraced the messaging of prioritizing the rights of moms and dads and safeguarding youngsters from alleged indoctrination in schools.

Those people problems go hand-in-hand, he says.

He defines indoctrination in the classroom as faculty staff members “imposing or placing a pupil in a situation in which they have to both settle for or acknowledge a thing they are not responsible for,” or “pushing or imposing a certain watch on a subject.”

“There is a position for the spouse and children in this article, and there is a purpose for the mother and father, (for) social views, political watch, spiritual sights and people things,” he added.

This calendar year, he sponsored laws that will get at the heart of the problem. The new legislation, signed by the governor very last 7 days, suggests faculties should not instruct lessons about race that foster hatred of the nation or that convey to kids they are inherently racist. Opponents say the measure is a GOP hard work to rewrite history to overlook adverse truths, and a federal lawsuit complicated the new legislation has previously been submitted.

DeSantis signed the monthly bill in Hialeah Gardens, at an event in which small children had been keeping “Stop Woke” and anti-critical race idea symptoms, which ended up political in character. Some Democrats criticized the governor’s occasion as getting the “real indoctrination.”

But Diaz states the monthly bill is about offering mothers and fathers “a voice.” And he disagrees that DeSantis and his administration’s policies are providing far more bodyweight to dad or mum groups who share the exact conservative ideology.

“I think all mothers and fathers are finding a voice,” he explained. “I indicate, naturally, mom and dad that concur with specified insurance policies or philosophies are going to gravitate toward a person aspect that supports that, but that does not signify that all mothers and fathers aren’t important.”

What is future?

On Friday, Diaz is not predicted to face stiff resistance from the board, which is stocked with DeSantis appointees. The board did not conduct a lookup for the job and scheduled a confirmation listening to for Diaz a day immediately after the governor encouraged him for the position.

If verified, he would move from Hialeah to Tallahassee to begin the position on June 1. His legislative group says he would start off transitioning into the purpose following month.

Diaz is aware of there is a lot of do the job to do. Amid the tasks will be the implementation of a new testing method that will be rolled out in the 2022-23 educational 12 months, a best priority for the governor.

He will also oversee the implementation of a new regulation that prohibits classroom instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation in kindergarten via 3rd quality in general public universities, and could restrict the training of those people topics in more mature grades if considered not “age appropriate” by the point out.

Diaz did not specify what he, personally, would obtain to be inappropriate instruction on those topics in grades 4 to 12. But he claimed the division would carry out a entire review on the challenge.

“I do hope to search at all that just before I formulate any type of final impression on exclusively what to do,” he reported. “But when we say age appropriate, what we indicate is having people specialists in baby advancement … and make guaranteed that we are in compliance with the pupil progression and the pacing strategy, like we do with any other subject matter.”

Then, Diaz explained, he would like to include things like the Republican-dominated Legislature on the make a difference so that lawmakers “can make people choices, if there are legislative decisions.”