Putting Education Reform To The Test

Committee Gives Parent Trigger Bill First Approval


Rep. Carlos Trujillo sponsors the Parent Empowerment bill. The measure is much like the one that narrowly failed on the final day of session last year.

House Choice and Innovation subcommittee approved The Parent Empowerment in Education bill, better known as the parent trigger, Thursday.

The bill (HB867) is making a return after passing the House last year but dying in the Senate on a tie vote the final day of the legislative session.

Critics say the bill is designed to turn education over to for-profit charter school operators.

Education Commissioner Tony Bennett questioned whether the bill absolves local school boards from making tough decisions, according to The Miami Herald.

Legislative leaders believe the GOP-backed bill will be signed into law this time, since term limits knocked out a handful of Republican opponents from last year.

Bill sponsor Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-Doral, told the committee the bill does four basic things:

  1. Gives parents a voice in turning around their child’s failing school by allowing them to recommend one of four federally mandated options to the local school board
  2. It would only impact “F” schools
  3. Prevent students from being taught by an ineffective teacher for two years in a row
  4. Require districts to report annually to parents if their child’s teacher is teaching out of field or has received two annual evaluations of unsatisfactory

The bill passed the committee 8 to 5, with Democrats voting no.

Here’s a sampling of statements issued surrounding Thursday’s committee vote:

Representative Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, D-Tallahassee—

I believe the Florida Legislature should focus on improving public schools, and not giving away parents’ power to for-profit corporations. There are better ways than the so-called parent trigger legislation to improve low-performing schools.

“Florida already has mechanisms in place by which parents and teachers can implement turnaround strategies, including converting a traditional public school to a charter school. The parent trigger bill circumvents that process.

Patricia Levesque, executive director of the Foundation for Florida’s Future–

Those opposed to parent empowerment continue to make the conversation about charter schools, demonizing them in the process. They’ve been successful in guiding the focus away from what this bill really does, and that’s unfortunate for parents. Repeating the words ‘charter school’ in a committee doesn’t make this a charter school bill.

It is shocking any organization that purports to care about education can oppose giving parents the opportunity to recommend what to do to improve their child’s chronically underperforming school. Mind you, there are multiple options that may be recommended to turn things around, only one of those options being a publicly funded charter school operation. And ultimately, the school board retains the decision regarding how changes will be implemented.

Mark Pudlow, Florida Education Association–

Plenty of evidence questions the wisdom of replacing public schools with charter schools. One study, from Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes, found that 83 percent of charter schools fared worse or no better than their public school counterparts in producing academic gains.

After Ben Austin, a California charter school overseer, dreamed up the original proposal, the idea was seized upon and propagated by the American Legislative Exchange Council—better known as ALEC, the model legislation giant behind the controversial “stand your ground” laws—and the Heartland Institute—notorious, of late, for comparing believers in climate change to the Unabomber. Both organizations have disseminated model parent trigger laws.

StudentsFirst Florida State Director Nikki Lowrey–

StudentsFirst and our 155,000 members thank Rep. Trujillo for his leadership, and applaud the members of the committee who voted for this important bill today. Parents with kids trapped in persistently failing schools deserve a voice, and today’s action was the first step in empowering them with levers to demand real change.

For the parents of children in the few dozen chronically failing schools statewide, this is a clear signal that help is on the way.


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