Putting Education Reform To The Test

Parent Trigger Bill Leads To Debate About “Authentic Parents”


Fund Education Now says Florida lawmakers aren't listening to parents who want no part of the Parent Empowerment in Education bill.

As parent trigger legislation again moves through the Florida Legislature, the group Fund Education Now is mad at the lawmakers who revived the bill after its narrow defeat last year.

The Parent Empowerment in Education bill, better known as the parent trigger, would enable parents at chronically failing schools to petition the school board for significant changes.

Options include closing the school, replacing the staff, principal or both or turning the school over to a charter school operator.

The bill is supposed to be about parents, said Fund Education Now co-founder Kathleen Oropeza, but that’s not who is supporting the idea.

“I do think it is important to recognize that not one single authentic Florida parent asked for this bill last year or this year,” she said. “One of the things we fought very hard for last year is for the perspective of authentic Florida parents to be included in the narrative about this legislation.”

The group says the bill is an effort by the Legislature to privatize public schools.

A press release from the group targets Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, and Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-Doral.

From the group’s press release:

By filing Parent Trigger again, Rep. Trujillo and Sen. Stargel have shown a profound lack of respect for the empowered parents who fought so hard to defeat it last year.

Florida voters have not forgotten that this bill uses parents’ love to pull the “trigger” and hand their neighborhood school over to a for-profit venture with zero guarantees of providing something better for their children. 
Once again, Florida politicians have collaborated with lobbyists to pass Parent Trigger and increase market share for their Charter School Management clients. They have boasted confidently to the press that passage of Parent Trigger is a done deal. 
Not one legitimate Florida parent group embraces this flawed legislation. Florida politicians stand alone in promoting Parent Trigger and its profit-driven scheme designed to rob taxpayers of their capital investment in public schools. 

Rep. Trujillo has some criticism for those who doubt his motivation for sponsoring the bill.

Here is a portion of his statement to StateImpact Florida:

Concerning the statement regarding “an authentic parent” – the group is clearly incorrect.  I highly suggest that members of Fund Education Now review the public testimony given by parents during the House Choice and Innovation Subcommittee. 

I did, however, notice paid authentic lobbyists in the Subcommittee meeting: Florida Education Association (15 lobbyists registered to lobby the Legislature) and United Teachers of Dade (5 lobbyists registered to lobby the Legislature) who seem to have been advocating for their membership more so than their students. 

I do not believe our actions show a lack of respect, but I do believe that we our committing a serious injustice by not implementing policies to improve chronically failing schools. 

It is much easier to attack and criticize those who are taking proactive steps to empower parents and provide a better education for our children, then it is to propose alternatives to improve these schools. 

Current Florida Statute already provides local school boards with four turnaround options (one of which is the option to convert the chronically failing school into a charter school).  However, it seems as though critics only point to the charter school option. 

The turnaround option suggested by parents is exactly that, a suggestion – it is not the final determination.  The final determination of which turnaround option to select is ultimately made (by) the Department of Education.

So who did show up? According to House documents, here’s who signed in:


  • Bob_C

    Pretty good article other than leaving out Michelle Rhee and her donation of $250,000 of parent trigger donation money to this week’s Los Angeles school board race. One mustn’t pretend this has much to do with empowering Florida parents.

  • SadNative

    Another good article. Clearly Representative Trujillo was not keeping track of the actual attendance, as I see a tally of 12 “general public” against and only 3 unspecified people for the bill. Just like I have more faith in a grass-roots Charter School than a cookie-cutter take-the-taxpayer-money-and-line-my-pockets charter school, I have much more respect for Fund Education Now than Foundation for Florida’s Future. FEN is a grass-roots organization with a passion for public education, founded by parents. FFF is Jeb Bush’s marketing organization, as far as I am concerned. FFF is in place to assist in the effort to dismantle public education and send the funding to corporations owned and managed by “Friends of Jeb”.

  • How quickly we forget. Parent trigger laws are not what you think. In Adelanto, parents wanted to remove their names from the petition because they felt mislead by the signature process strategy of signing two petitions. I was the board
    president when Parent Revolution – a lobbyist group – successfully bullied our
    small district in California with lawsuits to implement the Parent Trigger Law.
    The judge ruled that the district could not allow parents to change their
    minds- even if they felt mislead. Parent Revolution is my biggest concern with
    the Parent Trigger Law. The Parent Empowerment Act of 2010 in California sounds
    great, but it is not a grassroots movement. Parent Trigger Laws are not coming
    from grassroots or a parent movement – they are coming from deep pocket
    lobbyists. These laws create division in the community to allow take over of schools. Parent Revolution has big backers and uses that might to prop up Parent Trigger. Without Parent Revolution – there would be no Parent Trigger. Privatizing public schools with taxpayer money is not the solution to what ails our school systems. With over twenty years experience as an educator, I have come to the conclusion that the free market private sector, without government funding, is where the solution will come from. I am promoting a radical 21st century change in education. What about you? http://coachlerningacademies.me/ https://twitter.com/Coach_Lerning

    • Parent Revolution fought successfully in court to DISempower parents when the court ruled that they could not remove their names from the Parent Trigger petitions when they discovered they’d been tricked — “Gotcha!” should be Parent Revolution’s motto.

  • Ro

    Nothing these people do in our Florida legislature is for the children as they like to say. If so, they would stop defunding and dismantling our public schools where the MAJORITY of children go to school. THese people are paid handsomely by Jeb and his merry band of privatizers (Hage, Kipp Schools, Mavericks, etc) to enact laws to help their bottomline and I guarantee, they are all counting on cushy charter jobs when they are finsihed killing pulbic schools. REal parents don’t count. Interestingly, they are for parent involvement (trigger) but against them when they vte in class size, demand funding, or want the testing craze to end. So freaking convenient.

  • I’m far from Florida but followed this issue last year, as I’ve followed the Parent Trigger since it was created here in California (by, as everyone should know by now, billionaire-funded hired mouthpieces, not actual education activists or parent advocates).

    Reports from the last go-round were that paid staff of Parent Revolution testified before the Florida Legislature, falsely representing themselves as actual grassroots parents. Florida press, could you please keep an eye on this and call it out aggressively if it occurs again?

  • Interesting to watch a House K to 12 committee meeting last year. On all other bills than the Parent Trigger, public input was encouraged. On the Parent Trigger, Patricia Levesque was asked who her speakers were, and those were the only ones aloud to speak. This is not a Parent Trigger, it is part of the Privatization Express. The biggest challenge is not now, when 34 F schools exist, the big threat is when the PARCC exams come in with Common Core, and there may be many more F Schools. The Privatization Express should either be stopped by the Legislature in 2013 or the voters in 2014

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