Four failures and a (not really) funny video: the Richard Corcoran story
The scandal-plagued end of a shameless self-promoter, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran’s general leadership incompetence defines him far more than his trolling.
The Department of Education’s corrupt, ongoing institutional collapse under his three-ish years of leadership testifies to what he would have done (or will do) to any college or university foolish enough to make him a president.
Any “business” he might start that doesn’t grift public money or collect and/or spend other people’s political donations is going to fail — if he runs it.
But Corcoran did have two great talents in his short, happy public life:
Convincing powerful people to breathe some of their power on him.
Getting the weird Florida media to confuse trolling and leant power with actual power and leadership and capability.
More of the same, just with more trolling
It’s difficult to evaluate Corcoran’s record as Speaker of the House and Education Commissioner because he had no real governing goals or ideology beyond self-interest and the perception of personal dominance in the moment.
Just mesmerizing the child-like DeSantis into paying him $276K for three years is a massive personal victory for Corcoran. One has to acknowledge that.
But under Corcoran’s “leadership,” Florida continued Jeb Bush’s catastrophic, longstanding failures of student test score growth, if that’s what you care about. He continued to shovel tax money and tax-sheltered corporate money into Florida’s “Endtimes Academy” style voucher schools, ignoring the 60 percent 2-year drop out rate of our signature voucher program. And he continued to worsen Florida’s teacher and education worker capacity shortages by making education work as miserable and poorly paid as possible.
But in all that, Corcoran’s not special. He’s just a mainstream Florida leader who talks a little more trash. All of that education failure is openly tolerated and/or celebrated quietly by the private interests that actually run Florida — your Disneys and Publixes and FPLs.
Anybody else DeSantis would have appointed would have indulged the same neglect and general grifting. It’s the institutional story of the last 25 years. Until that changes, you’ll get the same institutional results.
Perhaps the DoE organization and building itself won’t be a rotten, corrupt cesspool with a more competent Jebbie in charge; but the Florida state system as a whole is America’s worst because institutional and governing power wants it to be. Corcoran doesn’t have much to do with that. He just looks to scavenge that reality for himself and his buddies.
What a loser
To get at Corcoran’s personal effectiveness as a leader, I think you have to assess what he put his own prestige into — where he submitted himself or his competence to the most direct public scrutiny or judgement.
And when he did that … my goodness, what a loser. Here are the four things I think Corcoran cared about as Speaker of the House and Education Commissioner.
Mount a credible campaign for governor. Couldn’t break 5 percent with Republicans. Quit without ever actually campaigning. Failed.
Reduce public school enrollment by 2/3 with charter, vouchers, and virtual schools. Failed.
Create a privatization showpiece by replacing tiny Jefferson County public schools with the first so-called “School of Hope” charter school run by Sen. Manny Diaz’s Academica. “I promise you, … Jefferson County will turn around with this program,” Corcoran said in an April 2017 interview with The Florida Channel, cited in Jessica Bakeman’s “Chartered” reporting on Jefferson County. Failed. Instead, Jefferson County is taking back control of its schools and replacing failed Academica with a public community school model. And Corcoran should be testifying under oath to state Inspector General Melinda Miguel about the massive DoE/Jefferson corruption scandal.
Get a cushy university president job grooved for him at FSU. Failed spectacularly after antagonizing friendly interviewers by just being himself.
As I said before, he’s much more Dark Helmet than Darth Corcoran.
And I do think it’s possible that all the Corcoran noise and pointless thrashing about may be seen one day as a turning point in Florida’s very very begrudging redirection toward a more humane and functional state system. The story of Jefferson County itself points in that direction.
Jefferson shows privatization can’t work at any scale, so … maybe we’ll pivot back to building normal community school capacity because there’s nothing else to do but eliminate public schools altogether and replace them with nothing.
Good luck with the domination
I love this passage from Jeff Solochek’s Corcoran resignation story:
… The former House speaker from Pasco County said he is ready to move on. He expected to practice law, do some consulting and “start a few businesses.”
With three children in college, he said, he wants to earn some additional money. As commissioner, Corcoran received an annual salary of $276,000, placing him among the highest-paid state officials in Florida.
His planned departure date is in late April. It comes a few months after the Department of Education came under fire for trying to steer a multi-million dollar contract to a politically connected company. The bidding scandal is under review by DeSantis’ chief inspector general.
Every inch of those paragraphs is about petty money-grubbing. It shows you that $276K in public salary isn’t enough to live in the style Corcoran’s become accustomed to. And this isn’t the first time Corcoran’s kids have served as public emblems of his personal values. His dominance ritual of his son — carefully filmed, edited, and sent out on Twitter for all the public to see — told me more about him than maybe anything else.
As I wrote at the time:
This video was not filmed secretly. It was filmed, edited and tweeted out proudly as a public statement by a person with a lot of official power over the Polk County School District -- and every other school district. Corcoran wanted people to see it. So give him what he wants and look at it, especially the last few seconds. It says a million words about Corcoran's self-control, indifference to others, and general dominance approach to power. As an elected official who has to deal with him, I can't afford to ignore what it shows about him.
Using official power he did not earn to inflict human pain through performative dominance rituals is Richard Corcoran’s entire public legacy. There’s nothing else.
And it was a lot easier to wrassle everybody into the pool without care for their well-being when people like Marco Rubio and Ron DeSantis gifted Corcoran the power to do it.
You better fire up the private sector patron suckup machine now, Commissioner, otherwise you might have to go work for a living.
You’re not good at that.
Does he realize how close his son came to hitting his head? How childish and irresponsible!