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Parents, Democrats bash ‘parent trigger’ proposal

by Dara Kam | March 5th, 2012

A coalition of parent-led groups, including the Florida PTA, and Democrats bashed a fast-tracked “parent trigger” proposal that would let parents at failing schools determine their fate.

The bill “has everything with laying the groundwork for the hostile, corporate takeover of public schools throughout Florida, a direct attack on public education,” Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich of Weston said at a press conference this morning.

Before the event began, Los Angeles-based Parent Revolution lobbyists handed out press releases asserting that national Democrats support the controversial measure. The California group called opponents “defenders of the status quo” and accused the Florida Education Association of invoking “new boogeymen” in “an attempt to confuse parents and political observers.” The “parent trigger” is now in place in first-in-the-nation California, Texas and Mississippi.

In those states, Democrats including Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, have favored the plan. The at-time unctuous, election-year parent trigger debate is pitting teachers’ unions and parent groups against charter schools and for-profit management companies throughout the nation.

At least 20 states, including Florida, are now considering “Parent Empowerment” legislation. The business-backed, conservative American Legislative Exchange Council has crafted model bills similar to the one (SB 1718, HB 1191) now on its way to the Senate floor in Florida; the House approved an identical measure last week along partisan lines. The Florida proposal is being pushed by former Gov. Jeb Bush and his education foundation, Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, and other GOP leaders.

Florida’s measure is being sponsored by Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers, whose district now includes part of Palm Beach County but who is running what is expected to be a tough GOP primary in a district across the state.

Republican Sen. Paula Dockery joined House and Senate Democrats, parents and teachers union leaders at the press conference this morning. Dockery, R-Lakeland, was out sick last week but her “no” vote on the Senate Education Appropriations Committee could have killed the bill, which passed on a 4-3 vote. The Senate Budget Committee signed off on the bill at a rare Saturday morning meeting after a bipartisan coalition blocked it from being yanked from the committee and sent to the Senate floor, where a vote will likely come sometime before the session ends Friday.

Dockery was among those who complained not only of the content of the measure but how Senate GOP leaders handled it.

The proposal allows parents to decide a turnaround plan for chronically low-performing schools if 51 percent of parents sign petitions. But the measure does not include the same standards required for signature-gathering in ballot drives. Accusations of ballot signature fraud have caused problems both times the process has been invoked in California.

“There’s a lot of room in this bill for some real shenanigans to take place,” Dockery said.

Parent Linda Kobert, of Fund Education Now, objected that only parent parent was allowed to speak before the Saturday morning’s vote, and her time was limited to a few minutes although Parent Revolution national advocacy director Michael Trujillo was given much longer during a q-and-a with the panel.

“For the third time in weeks a real Florida parent testifying against parent empowerment was cut off in mid-sentence after only 15 seconds,” Kobert said. “We are tiered of being cut off, interrupted and not allowed to speak.”

Giving “highly-paid, professional lobbyists unlimited time to testify” but not parents “makes us furious,” Kobert said.

“If we don’t have the right to speak during a parent-empowerment meeting, who does?” she said.

The bipartisan Senate coalition may be able to kill the bill if its members hold together and all are present when the bill comes up for a vote. The attempt to bring it to the floor required a two-thirds majority but failed with 19 votes against it. The measure requires at least 21 votes to pass.

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13 Responses to “Parents, Democrats bash ‘parent trigger’ proposal”

  1. Tom Says:

    Let parents have a say in their child’s education. There is always a small vocal group who wish to take the majority of the parents voices away.

    There is nothing wrong, with parents being brought on board to help failing schools.

    Beware of a small group which seeks to take away the majority voice.

  2. Mark Halpert Says:

    Parents can and should be at the table — but this bill has nothing to do with that

    There needs to be a Parent Empowerment effort to get parents at failing schools involved

    As for the small minority of parents — I have yet to meet one parent who agrees with this bill, not one

    When a House Committee Meeting occurred only supporters of the bill were heard — Empowering Parent Yes , this bill NO

  3. Downtown Danny Says:

    These negative Republican’ts who bash our public schools – my public school was awesome!
    This is nothing but a takeover of schools because they want their private pals to grab all our tax money going to public schools. No Child Left Behind was designed by Republicans to destroy the school system and lead it to a private takeover.
    REPUBLICANS – TAKE YOUR GREEDY HANDS OFF OUR SCHOOLS!

  4. SheliaJoy Says:

    Lets be real here. A failing school is attended by students who are under-performing. These students reside in homes in which for whatever reason the parents have not been capable or are not able to help the child improve their performance. These same parents will now be asked to help tell “the powers to be” how to fix the school.

    If the parents were that smart wouldn’t it be safe to say that the school would improve without a trigger.

    Parent Trigger is a back door way for Jeb Bush and his educational cronies to use tax money for private enterprises.

    Name one charter school in Florida that is rated an “A”. Most charter schools students perform below average. The same with “virtual” school students.

    Please tell me why private school studetns do not have to take the FCAT arrive at college requiring remedial classes in Engligh and math.

    The fight for better education is not union vs charter schools. The fight is between rich and poor. This fight is won at home in the parents pocket book. Public schools attempt to level the playing field. Unless Parent Trigger is going to equalize income inequility exactly what is the purpose?

  5. Bob Says:

    Guess the other posters missed the part that liberals across the country in other areas support the measure.
    I find it funny that parents would be objecting to having more say in their child’s education. Are these parents who showed up to speak going to fight for their right to have the government continue to make decisions for them? Really? Sounds like partisan activists just trying to help the left beat the bill, and make the GOP look bad(they don’t need help with that).
    Besides with a 51% requirement to get signatures, i doubt they will be able to achieve change in the worst schools. The parents clearly don’t care anyways by a majority, and doubt they could get 51% of the parents to sign something.

  6. TruthTeller Says:

    Parent Revolution has been lying through their teeth throughout this whole process. First they claim the PTA and FEA are for this legislation (they aren’t), then they claim Florida parents are for this (except they have to haul in parents from California to push this or people on Jeb or Michelle Rhee’s payroll), now they’re claiming national Democrats are all for this? Please.

    Parent Revolution, please go back to California and take your ALEC nonsense with you.

  7. Susan Smith Says:

    Failing schools usually fail because there is a lack of parental involvement. This is an effort to trick parents into handing over their public schools to private corporations (based on what’s been going on in California). If this were a legitimate bill, supporters wouldn’t have had to fly people in from out-of-state to lobby for it.

    Call your senator and tell him/her to vote NO on SB 1718.

  8. FormerDropout Says:

    I now see the biggest problem with our education system: too much misinformation and politicizing!

    Let’s get some facts straight here:

    1. If the parents are really the problem, then why opposed legislation that gives them more of a seat at the table.

    2. The options that this bill provides are federally required for failing schools, of which converting to a charter is only one. In far more cases, the parents have used these options to obtain necessary resources such as computer labs, special tutoring, and additional English language learning assistance.

    3. Of the states that have implemented this legislation, there is only ONE instance of a failing school being converted to a charter – and it was a public, not-for-profit charter where the parents sit on the board and select the principal.

    4. Regardless of what the FEA or anyone else says publicly, they contributed to this legislation, along with the Democrat Caucus and numerous school districts.

  9. Downtown Danny Says:

    This is how the Republicans create jobs? By taking another swing at privatizing schools and getting their greedy hands on our tax dollars allocated for public schools. Republicans act like every public school is horrible – the schools in my area are great. The school I went to in Orlando (Lake Brantley) was outstanding and still is. Republicans are just liars who will say anything to steal money.

  10. FormerDropout Says:

    I’m not sure how this would create jobs – wouldn’t it just swap one employer for another (maybe a few firings and replacement by better administrators)?

    That’s like saying there are no bad neighborhoods because “I live in Isleworth” and Republicans are liars for saying there are. Come on down to Oak Ridge High, West Orange, or any of the other 15 D or F schools in Orange County and you can see what “they” are “lying” about!

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