Charter-school advocates are cheering Friday’s appointment of Florida state Sen. Manny Diaz as the Sunshine State’s new education chief.
Diaz, the first Hispanic to serve as Florida’s Department of Education commissioner, has been a longtime supporter of school choice and is expected to expand the sector upon taking office in June.
Florida hosts five of the country’s 10 largest school districts, and Diaz’s new role gives charter supporters a key national foothold.
The Cuban-American is considered a staunch conservative and has been an ally of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who helped him land the education post.
In addition to charter schools, Diaz has also supported government-funded vouchers for students who want to attend private schools.
At his Friday confirmation hearing, Diaz sought to reassure traditional public-school advocates that he would support all aspects of Florida’s education system.
Hailing from Hialeah Gardens, Diaz has backed several controversial initiatives spearheaded by DeSantis in recent months.
These include the “Parents Rights Bill” that prohibits instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation for kids in kindergarten through the third grade.
Critics called it the “Don’t Say Gay” bill and said it was hostile to the LGBTQ community.
Diaz has also supported the elimination of critical race theory from Florida schools and pushed for a mandatory “Victims of Communism Day” of instruction for all kids.
“I know him to be a person of integrity and always open to seriously considering opposing viewpoints,” said former state Sen. Bill Montford, chief executive officer of the Florida Association of District School Superintendents.
The Florida State Board of Education approved Diaz unanimously Friday.
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