Two civil right groups have teamed up to write resolutions against the proposed Parent Empowerment in Education bill in Florida.
The bill — best known as the “parent trigger” — passed the Florida House last year but failed on a tie vote in the Senate on the final day of the legislative session.
Legislative leaders believe the bill will pass this year with a new batch of lawmakers.
Republicans lost some seats in the November election, but they still retain control of both chambers.
The proposal would give parents the power to petition the school board for drastic changes at chronically failing schools.
Options include shutting down the school, replacing some or all of the staff or letting charter school operators take over.
The Florida Council of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Florida State Conference (NAACP) issued similar resolutions rejecting the parent trigger.
Both resolve to support efforts to improve the public education system.
LULAC’s resolution states “Parent Empowerment (popularly referred to as Parent Trigger), legislation and bills are controversial, experimental, and lack evidence of effectiveness.”
Dr. Rosa Castro Feinberg, a retired professor who works with LULAC on state education policy, doesn’t think schools that were paid for and equipped using public funds should be handed over to privately run charter schools.
“A scant majority of parents at a school should not be able to divest the taxpayers of valuable school property that was paid for and belongs not to them alone but to all the residents of the district and state,” she told StateImpact Florida.
“That is not school reform, it is legalized theft,” she said.
Castro Feinberg calls the parent trigger legislation even more troubling following reports that students with learning disabilities and language barriers have limited access to charter schools. Charters get public funding but are privately operated.
“We are also concerned about limitations in civil rights available to parents, teachers, and students in charter as contrasted with traditional public schools. Those rights are constricted in privately managed schools,” Castro Feinberg said.
A StateImpact Florida analysis of school demographics from 2011 found charter school students were more likely to be Hispanic than district school students and less likely to be black or Asian. The median percentage of students receiving the federal free or reduced lunch program — a common proxy for poverty — was lower in charter schools than district schools.
“While some charter schools are excellent, study after study has revealed that most are no different from the truly public, open access, traditional public schools, and some charter schools are simply awful,” Castro Feinberg said.
“Our state needs adequately funded traditional public schools open to all. Our state needs elected officials who act to ensure their viability.”
Read the resolutions below: