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Will Manny Diaz's rebuke of DeSantis cost him his Education Commissioner job?
Tone was the only substance of the DeSantis/Corcoran administration. Now Manny wants to change the tone and respect all choices, including public schools. Will DeSantis and Chris Rufo let him?
I doubt Ron DeSantis expected his new education commissioner to become his most consequential critic; and yet … check out this article from Florida NPR about Sen. Manny Diaz, DeSantis’s pick to become new Education Commissioner.
It includes the two harshest things any Republican — other than Roger Stone, if he is a Republican — has ever said about Ron DeSantis.
DeSantis is “tone” made flesh, Manny. You want to change him?
This first excerpt is a paraphrase, which describes Diaz’s point-of-view before quoting him directly. Note the crucial use of “acknowledges,” which is often the most important word in public life.
Teaching has taken big hits in recent years—even this past legislative session saw teachers vilified over allegations of trying to indoctrinate children or worse-calling them “groomers” a term used to describe people who try to abuse children. Diaz acknowledges that sort of talk doesn’t do anything to encourage people to go into the profession, and he wants to change the tone around teaching.
“I hate to use such a simplistic term but How do you make teaching cool again? Because this is a profession a lot of women went into and they were respected for the work they were doing, and it’s become—you’re right, there are some critics.”
In fairness, the words “tone” and “acknowledges” come from the reporter. But the quote is certainly supportive of the paraphrase.
And it highlights DeSantis’ core problem in education and governing: he’s defines himself entirely by tone. Without it, he has no governing identity.
DeSantis uses his real governing levers of power to create civic tone that generates campaign/political money, not actual substantial outcomes. The attack on Disney, for instance, is all tone and no substance. Reedy Creek will not be dissolved. Meanwhile housing and property insurance inflation are quickly turning DeSantis’ Florida into a much dumber and worse governed version of California.
Indeed, Ron DeSantis is tone made flesh. His substance is tone. It’s tone that most terrorizes the vulnerable kids and people harassed in the last year or so. The entire “besiege the institutions” right-wing grift of which DeSantis is a hero is built on tone, a supposed effort to sow mass distrust so that public schools collapse so they can be replaced by … something.
CRT is tone. Woke is tone.
Without all the LGBT-baiting and lib-hating “tone,” a substance-focused Ron DeSantis would just be me. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Here’s what’s not tone in Florida education:
The teacher shortage is not tone.
Voucher-funded private schools cannot “replace” public schools because they suck incredibly badly (61 percent 2-year drop out rate, no certified teachers, etc.) and have no capacity. Real private schools don’t want to replace public schools. That is not tone.
The Jefferson County charter failure — which Manny Diaz helped arrange for his employer, Academica — and scandal is not tone.
Florida’s terrible state performance on standardized tests (especially math and science) — after doing nothing but chasing standardized tests — is not tone.
The new screen-based, state “progress monitoring” platform that does not exists, yet must be implemented by a gutted and completely corrupt Florida Department of Education is not tone.
Those are all substance. Manny now personally owns all of them. Perhaps that has focused his mind. Because he certainly seems to be suggesting now that institutional substance matters more than tone. Has he told his new boss?
Manny blames all the old “tone” stuff on disgraced, out-going grifter commissioner Richard Corcoran. But that’s nonsense. Tone was the only reason DeSantis picked Corcoran. DeSantis loved Corcoran’s empty, lib-owning dominance rituals. He loved his tone.
Now Manny is saying, specifically, that Manny no longer wants to own the libs, particularly the the lib women in the teaching profession. Manny “acknowledges” the tone is harmful to the institution of public education — and that it’s a bad thing?
When Manny says: “Because this is a profession a lot of women went into and they were respected for the work they were doing, and it’s become—you’re right, there are some critics” … he is talking about DeSantis and Corcoran (and Randy Fine and Kelli Stargel and Chris Rufo all the rest).
A nice, constructive, thoughtful, collaborative DeSantis is no DeSantis at all. A DeSantis who doesn’t screech about “groomers” is no DeSantis at all. A DeSantis capable of changing tone from groomer grifter to openly substantive strengthener of public education as an institution is no DeSantis at all.
He’s Billy. LOL.
And that will come as quite the surprise to lead national groomer grifter Chris Rufo. You don’t besiege the institutions by strengthening their capacity. Yet, as I’ve noted already, this last Florida Legislative session, for all its hideous tone, was full of big, unacknowledged defeats for privatizers and institution siegers.
That is the political/structural tension of this moment — some GOPers want to use the popularity of public education to win elections; some want to use that popularity to destroy public education. The former is more likely to happen than he latter, if the latter is even really a goal, which I doubt. You often have to look very hard to distinguish a goal from a grift.
Florida proves it if you’re paying attention.
If you’re serious about a “respect all choices” era, Manny …
This second striking quote from Manny, if it ever became real on the ground, would destroy the Floria Model of education and what we have known as “choice.”
In fact, it sounds very much like the “respect all choices” model I have long advocated.
When you say choice, we’re not talking about one choice or the other. I think our job in the legislature has been to allow parents the opportunity to choose, not for us to drive students to one particular setting or another, but to have a quilt of options that parents can choose.
The “our job has been” part is, of course, false. The Legislature’s “job” during the entire Jeb era has been to herd kids out of traditional public schools with negative marketing and into … something. It’s never really clear what, other than grift. These negative marketing tools include:
Useless, painful standardized testing that you can escape at a voucher school.
Fraudulent school grades that pretend charter schools that deny ESE kids and pick and dump the rest are the same as inclusive community public schools.
And the endless tone of attack from folks like Manny.
Yet, as the DoE/Jefferson scandal shows, for all its malignant, anti-community, anti-human aims, the Legislature and COVID together have failed to kill public education as the crucial public institution in any community. It’s still what the vast majority of parents choose, even in Florida. Here’s an example from my county:
As I once wrote:
Let me just state the obvious: for all the Polk County District's challenges, which I wake up thinking about solving each day, 61 percent of our students do not "choose" to bail out of our schools every two years. Not anywhere close. If they did...can you imagine?
If Manny and DeSantis are actually serious about a “respect all choices” happy “quilt” of choice era, here are three easy reforms to deliver it:
Make all standardized testing/assessment optional. Trust parents to decide if their kids should be defined by useless computer-testing and numbers.
Grade magnet and charter schools against each other, on a different scale than inclusive zoned public schools that are not self-selected and then enrollment-curated.
Adopt voucher reforms that eliminate fraud and impose capital requirements to prevent the 61 percent 2-year voucher abandonment rate. Yes, this will kill most voucher schools because most voucher schools are unspeakably bad grifts. But the serious ones will continue to exist and have the chance to actually compete.
Was Manny speaking for Manny? Or for DeSantis? Will Ryan Petty or Esther Byrd get a “tone” about Manny’s “tone”?
My big question: was Manny speaking for Manny? Or for DeSantis?
If he was only speaking for Manny, I think DeSantis has to unappoint him. If this isn’t a DeSantis pivot, it’s a massive rebuke. And DeSantis’ ego/mythology can’t take that. (If this is a pivot, I wonder if there’s internal polling somewhere driving it.)
Manny goes before the Board of Education on Friday for confirmation. Watch the top BoE trolls — Ryan Petty and Esther Byrd. If this isn’t a sanctioned pivot, and Manny isn’t unappointed, look for Petty and Byrd to exact some ritual humiliation.
I hereby apologize for sounding reasonable. I will never do it again.
But it also can’t be unsaid. In politics and the pursuit of power, you win mostly by getting your enemies to acknowledge you’re right.
Manny has now acknowledged the importance of ending the hateful tone of attack on public education and respecting all choices. He’s acknowledged the importance of breaking the siege on the institution of public education.
Your move, Governor Tone.