Republican state Sen. Manny Diaz was unanimously approved by the Florida State Board of Education to be the new commissioner of education. He is also the first Hispanic commissioner of education in Florida’s history. He will replace outgoing commissioner Richard Corcoran on June 1.

Diaz has said that he will be involved in the upcoming special session of the Legislature where lawmakers will address Florida’s failing property insurance market before he takes the reins at the Department of Education.

Before Diaz entered politics in 2012 when he was elected to the state House of Representatives, he had a long track record working as a public school teacher, coach, assistant principal, and school administrator. As a state senator since 2018, Diaz has advocated for students, parents, and educators, said Richard Corcoran, the outgoing commissioner, in a press release on April 29. Most recently, Diaz was instrumental in getting the Stop W.O.K.E. Act passed, and he supported the Parental Rights in Education Bill.

“There’s what’s in the actual bill and what gets talked about in the headlines,” Diaz said in an interview with ABC Local 10 on May 1.

Diaz was referring to the misleading label attached to the parental rights bill, which was deemed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by opponents and the mainstream media. In actuality, the bill prohibits discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity to students in Kindergarten through third grade.

“I think these are common sense things. … They’re not mature enough and things need to be age-appropriate,” he said in the interview.

Diaz will begin his tenure on June 1 and said he plans to keep working on the many education issues that Gov. Ron DeSantis has prioritized. Testing is one of the issues Diaz will tackle once he takes over.

He said the state’s new testing system uses formative exams and that they are not “high stakes” or “anxiety-producing” tests.

“They’re really to measure where the student is at and provide the teacher, the parents, the students with information on what they need to learn moving forward,” he said. “It’s a measure to adjust instruction and drive inspection.”

One summative exam is given at the end of the school year and Diaz said that is enough to be “compliant with federal law.”

The approval of textbooks has been covered in the media recently, with critical race theory being “injected” into the content of math textbooks based on social emotional learning, Diaz told ABC Local 10.

“These books should be about math and math problems and getting our students to learn,” he said.

During his April 29 confirmation hearing, Diaz said parental involvement is important, as he believes that parents should be engaged with their children’s education.

“We value the rights of parents and so, with parents being engaged, I think that brings another element to our education system in Florida in which we want to make sure that parents have the proper opportunity to be engaged in their child’s education, in school board meetings in school districts, and public education period,” he said at the hearing.

The other problem facing schools is what Diaz calls the “COVID slide,” which has caused students to lag behind where they need to be in academics.

“There’s still a lag from COVID. And we need to play catch up and having using the resources that have been put in by the state and federal dollars, to make sure that we’re advancing the agenda of getting those students back where they need to be, providing opportunities for acceleration or remediation,” he said during the hearing.

Diaz got unanimous approval from the state Board of Education, including Vice Chair Ben Gibson.

“As a father, I take seriously our responsibility to appoint a commissioner who will guarantee our students receive the very best education,” Gibson said in a press release. “It is evident Manny Diaz will be a leader whose decisions are made in the best interest of today’s students and future generations.”


Jannis Falkenstern is an Epoch Times reporter who covers the state of Florida.

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