House passes parent trigger

The Florida House approved the controversial parent-trigger proposal Thursday, setting the stage for a showdown in the Senate. If the storyline sounds familiar, there’s a reason: The bill, which would enable parents at low-performing schools to demand sweeping changes in how the school is run, won the support of the Republican-dominated House last year. The narrative may have a different ending this time. Last year, the parent trigger died in the more moderate Senate. This year, the lawmaker shepherding the proposal in the upper chamber says she is counting on more support. “What happened last year was more political than about policy,” said Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland. The parent trigger bill would let parents convert struggling traditional schools into charter schools, or even demand the school be closed. The House version also prevents children at failing schools from having ineffective or out-of-field teachers for two consecutive years. Supporters, including former Gov. Jeb Bush and former D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, have said the measure would allow parents to play a larger role in local schools. But the Florida PTA, a coalition of grassroots parent groups, school districts and the state teachers’ union have fought the bill, saying it does little more than enable for-profit charter school management companies to cannibalize struggling schools. They point to California, where a similar law has prompted bitter court battles. The result has been a knock-down, drag-out that’s divided Democrats and Republicans in Tallahassee. On Thursday, all 44 House Democrats voted against the bill. They were joined by seven Republicans: Reps. Halsey Beshears, of Monticello; Mike Fasano, of New Port Richey; Tom Goodson, of Titusville; Ed Hooper, of Clearwater; Travis Hutson, of Elkton; Holly Raschein, of Key Largo; and David Santiago, of Deltona. Rep. Carlos Trujillo, the Miami Republican sponsoring the bill, said he didn’t know why the seven had voted against his bill, but added that he wasn’t disappointed.

“I’m glad everybody has read the union’s talking points,” Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami, the bill’s sponsor, told Democrats. “But most of your comments have nothing to do with the bill.” Several Democrats lashed out at the legislation, saying it manipulates parents with children in failing schools into thinking they are gaining more control with authority to petition school boards for change. “When the trigger is pulled, the only people with a voice are private management companies,” said Rep. Mark Danish, D-Tampa. “I urge you to support our public schools and vote against this bill.” “We’re disappointed that the Florida House chose to ignore the voices of Florida parents, teachers and school administrators and pass this deceptive bill,” said FEA President Andy Ford. He added, “It’s all about creating an easy pathway so that for-profit charter operators can coerce parents into handing over our neighborhood public schools.” (Andy Ford quoted),0, (Jeff Wright quoted)


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Even in victory, Trujillo misrepresents opposition to parent trigger (Jeff Wright mentioned)


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House passes charter transparency bill

A sweeping charter school bill passed the Florida House on Thursday after its sponsor agreed to amend it so that traditional public schools do not have to give charter schools access to their unused space.  Rep. George Moraitis, R- Fort Lauderdale, said he agreed to the changes to get new accountability measures in place. HB 7009 would allow high-performing charter schools to increase their enrollment without approval of the local school district, but Moraitis stressed his intent is to increase financial transparency. It includes a provision inspired by the closing of a Central Florida charter high school. The principal of North Star Charter High School walked away with a $519,000 payout when the school was closed because of poor performance. Although charter schools use public money, there are few regulations governing how money is spent. A state auditor general report on 2011 audits found that about a third of the state charters had accounting problems or violations. The House passed the measure 87-29.  Its companion measure, SB 1282 is waiting to be heard in the Judiciary Committee.


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Bill would overhaul online courses

The Florida House on Thursday approved legislation that would expand online learning for public school students. Supporters say they want to shake up the “semi-monopoly” on state-approved online courses enjoyed by Florida Virtual School, allowing other providers -- including school districts themselves -- to offer online courses to students anywhere in the state. They say they want to remove the boundaries that limit course offerings across school district lines. They also want to allow school districts to experiment with online-centric learning models like the “flipped classroom” in which students watch online lectures at home, at their own pace, and then come to class to do hands-on work with their teachers. The bill that passed the full chamber on an 82-37 floor vote would overhaul the state’s funding and regulation of online courses. Some Democratic lawmakers objected to provisions that would allow providers without a physical presence in the state to operate online classes that receive state funding. “I don’t think this is about embracing technology. I think this is about embracing money,” said state Rep. Irv Slosberg, D-Boca Raton. He added the bill “probably is going to benefit for-profit companies and out-of-state schemers to outsource our education and our jobs to who-knows-where.”


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House passes cyberbullying bill


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