Manny Diaz: Longtime Educator, Opponent of Obamacare, with Ambitious Agenda for State Schools

By: Eric Giunta | Posted: February 18, 2013 3:55 AM
Rep. Manny Diaz, R-Hialeah
Manny Diaz
Date of Birth: March 2, 1973
Birthplace: Hialeah
Residence: Hialeah
Education: Nova Southeastern University, Master of Science in Educational Leadership
Occupation: School administrator
Previous Public Office: None
Family: Wife, two children
Did you know? Attended St. Thomas University on a baseball scholarship. No longer plays the game.

Broward County’s newest Republican representative is shaping up to be one of the House’s most legislatively ambitious. He’s filed four bills pertaining to his career-long passion, education, and is taking one of the hardest lines in the Legislature against implementing Obamacare.

"Oftentimes when we have the conversation about education, the children get left out; we’re always talking about the adults,” Rep. Manny Diaz of Hialeah, assistant principal at Miami’s George T. Baker Aviation School, tells Sunshine State News. ”I support teachers wholeheartedly, but we sometimes have to make the tough decisions, which are what’s best for the kids and making sure that all of our kids – especially those who are low-income and of low socio-economic status – have the same opportunities that all of our other students have across the state.”

Having spent nearly his entire adulthood in the educational sector, Diaz is certainly qualified to tackle education issues, which nearly every other interviewee for this series insists will be a priority in the 2013 session.

Diaz’s nearly 19-year career in the Miami-Dade public school system began when he took up teaching high school social studies at the age of 21. Five years later he became a vice principal, and at Baker Aviation he helps oversee the vocational training of about 1,000 high schoolers and adults.

It was doubtless this experience that landed him three of the committee assignments he requested from House Speaker Will Weatherford: the Education Committee and the subcommittees on K-12 and Choice and Innovation.

Chairman Michael Bileca, R-Miami, chose Diaz to shepherd through the House a proposed committee bill, PCB CIS 13-03, which expands “digital learning” opportunities for the state’s K-12 students. It’s nearly identical to one Diaz himself wanted to file personally, and its origin as a committee bill signals the support of Speaker Weatherford and nearly guarantees it will eventually go before the full House for a floor vote.

“If you’re a student now in one county and there’s a great class offered virtually in another county, you’re not allowed to take it; this bill would bring down those barriers and allow students to go ahead and go to a virtual marketplace to sign up and take some of these courses,” Diaz explains. “This might not be for everybody, but it’s another modality in which we are allowing students to learn; everyone learns differently, some students will thrive in these environments.”

Another of Diaz’s bills, HB 53 (“Student Assessment Program for Public Schools”), has already passed unanimously in the K-12 Subcommittee. It’s a government transparency measure that requires county school districts to publicly disclose which student assessments are mandated by the districts themselves, instead of by Tallahassee.

“The majority of these tests that teachers and students are complaining about are not coming from the state accountability system; most of them are coming from district-required testing from each individual district,” Diaz explains. “I’m all for local control, and if it works for a district, that’s great; but we need to have districts own up to what they’re doing. This is about notifying the stakeholders -- the public, the community, students, and parents -- and will be useful to the Department of Education for information-gathering.”

HB 517 (“Foreign-Trained Medical Professionals”) is likely to raise a lot more controversy. Passed in the House in previous sessions before failing in the Senate, this bill is aimed directly at communist Cuba’s Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM). If passed by the Legislature, it would prohibit the state from awarding medical licenses to doctors trained on the island.

Diaz insists the measure is necessary to ensure that Florida’s doctors meet the highest academic and ethical standards. He says ELAM admits mere high-school graduates to its doctoral program, and does not allow the island’s natives to avail themselves of either its education or its medical treatment.

“It creates an apartheid system for medicine on the island,” Diaz tells SSN. “I don’t think that students who go there and turn a blind eye to the human rights violations that are going on on the island (of Cuba) have the moral clarity to practice medicine in Florida.”

Less controversy is likely to be aroused by HB 113 (“Distribution of Materials Harmful to Minors”), which stiffens the penalties associated with the deliberate distribution of pornography by adults to minors on public school campuses. The bill raises what is currently a misdemeanor to a third-degree felony.

Diaz is just as passionate about his constituents’ health care needs. He sits on the Health Quality Subcommittee, another one of the assignments he requested from the House speaker, and he bucks the trend of most Republicans who have interviewed for this series by his outspoken disinclination to endorse either state-run insurance exchanges or Medicaid expansion.

“Right now, as it stands, I don’t feel that the states should get involved with running health care exchanges: this is a big federal program, and the responsibility should fall on the federal government, since they created the issue,” he explains.

“It’s also looking more and more to me like I’m going to take the stance that we don’t expand Medicaid,” he continues. “Right now the federal government is throwing out the carrot, saying they’re going to provide the funds to do this, but we need to be fiscally responsible as we look into the future. What kind of condition are we going to leave our state in when we're done with our service?

“That’s going to hinge on what we do now. It’s going to affect that directly.”

Diaz’s words echo those of conservative activists who suggest that burdening an insolvent federal government with implementing the controversial Obamacare law might effectively halt it in its tracks.

Reach Eric Giunta at egiunta@sunshinestatenews.com or at (954) 235-9116. 


Comments (3)

7:59AM FEB 20TH 2013
the RPOF has thrown the education system of florida into chaos in a hundred different ways. they haven't and can't fund the mess they have already made. yea make some more changes and don't pay for them.
Luis Escarra
5:02PM FEB 18TH 2013
Thanks Manny Diaz Jr. for your hard work and dedication towards education, we will support you and your hard work. Thank You!
4:07PM FEB 18TH 2013
Digital learning will cost money, non starter.

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