The parent trigger bill is back, and Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford thinks it has a good chance of passing this year.
He even tweeted about it shortly after the bill was filed.
“It’s great public policy. It empowers families. It empowers parents, gives them the choices that they need,” Weatherford told StateImpact Florida. “It engages them in the education of their children.”
The measure enables parents at a chronically failing school to petition the school board for significant changes. Turnaround options include firing some or all of the staff, letting a charter school operator take over or closing the school. Seven states, including California, Indiana and Texas, have some version of a parent-trigger law in place.
In Florida, the bill died on the final day of the legislative session last year when a former Senate sponsor cast a deciding vote against the bill. The House approved the bill.
The bill is much the same as it was last year. The main difference this time, according to Senate President Don Gaetz, is in the makeup of the Florida Legislature.
“Some of those who vociferously opposed the parent empowerment legislation last year were termed out of the Senate, and we have some new senators,” Gaetz said. “The concept of allowing parents more control over their children’s schools has got to be a concept that we believe in if we believe in the power of neighborhoods and in the power of parents and in the responsibility for their children’s education.”
Opponents of the legislation say it benefits for-profit companies, could privatize public facilities and gives control to people who may have little educational experience.
But Weatherford notes that the parent trigger bill in California has rarely been used.
“It’s a parental empowerment tool that exists only in extreme cases but still is there in case we ever find ourselves in that position,” Weatherford said.
Weatherford said kids shouldn’t be destined to attend a failing school just because of their address.
“If there is a habitually failing school – for whatever the reason – there should be options for the parents of those students,” Weatherford said.
“Whether that’s a charter school, whether that’s a changing of the administration, there are lots of different options we can give those parents,” Weatherford said. “It’s really just saying that we’re not going to accept failing schools for anybody.”