Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday recommended that Florida’s next education commissioner be state Sen. Manny Diaz, a former teacher and vice principal who co-sponsored a bill setting new guidelines for race-based discussions in schools.
The State Board of Education needs to appoint a replacement to take over after Commissioner Richard Corcoran leaves at the end of the month. Corcoran, who was appointed in 2018 after serving as Florida House speaker, has said he is stepping down to spend more time with his family.
Diaz has served in the Florida Legislature since 2012. The South Florida Republican has also been a teacher, coach, assistant principal and school administrator.
“Manny Diaz has done a great job in the Legislature on education issues ranging from teacher pay to parental rights and choice,” DeSantis said in a statement.
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DeSantis and Diaz were appearing at an event in Hialeah Gardens Friday afternoon.
Diaz co-sponsored a measure that passed the Legislature this past session, but has yet to be signed into law by DeSantis, to set guidelines around discussions teachers and businesses can have about race. The bill was pushed by DeSantis as a means to fight critical race theory and passed the Florida Senate on a party line vote last month.
The legislation bars instruction to make members of a race feel guilty for past actions committed by people of that same race, and bars teaching that meritocracy is racist. It also expands language in state law on requiring teaching on the history of slavery and racial oppression.
Critical race theory centers on the idea that racism is systemic in U.S. institutions and that they function to maintain the dominance of white people in society. There is little to no evidence that critical race theory itself is being taught to K-12 public school students, though some ideas central to it, such as lingering consequences of slavery, have been.
Black senators have said they believe the bill will have a chilling effect on how African American history is taught because teachers will fear lawsuits if students’ parents object to how they present subjects like slavery, segregation, lynchings and the continued presence of racism in the United States.
Diaz, a Cuban-American, has said the bill doesn’t prevent the teaching of horrific moments in the country’s history.
“No one is trying to wash out or erase history,” Diaz said last month. “They have to teach about the fact that we had slavery, that we had Jim Crow laws ... but our history also includes the fact that we have fought to remove those terrible things from our laws and our society.”