Debate intensifies in parent-trigger debate

Jeff Wright says there’s more to the story than what's told by proponents of the "parental trigger" bill. The public policy advocate for the Florida Education Association stood in the back of the room Tuesday while supporters of HB 867 and its companion, SB 862, contended that all the legislation does is give parents leverage to initiate change in a failing public school. “It’s just good practice for the school board to be opening things up, inviting parents in, explaining what all the options are and getting parental input into the decision,” said Patricia Levesque of the Foundation for Florida’s Future, a prime supporter of the legislation. The proposal would make it easier for parents to demand conversion of a failing public school into a charter school. Parents can pull the trigger, so to speak, after a school receives a failing grade and 50 percent plus one of the school’s parents sign a petition calling for a charter. Opposition centers on the fear that the parent empowerment movement is a front to privatize public education. “That’s nonsense,” said Pat DeTemple, executive director of Parent Revolution, the California group that led the effort to pass the nation’s first trigger law. “We wouldn’t be involved in it if that was what’s it about and I don’t believe that is the intent of the law in Florida.” Levesque and DeTemple spent about 40 minutes Tuesday talking about the trigger bill moving through the House; the Senate version has yet to have a hearing. When they were through, Wright stepped outside and held court with a gaggle of reporters in front of the Florida Press Center. “There is more to this bill than what meets the language here,” Wright said. “Rule-making authority of DOE can change almost every provision that’s here. The details are not in the law.” In addition to the FEA, the state Parent Teacher Association, school districts and grassroots parents groups are opposed to the bill. It has moved through House committees on party-line votes with Democrats against it. Much of the opposition centers on the fear that it enables for-profit charter-school management companies to take over traditional public schools. “The implication is that the only vehicle you are going to organize parents around is a charter,” Wright said. “And if you look at the email traffic that the Foundation and Patricia has received, charter companies asking her to loosen the laws across the country to allow them to have more availability, we have reason to suspect that there is more to the story than what was presented.” HB 867 has cleared the committee process and is on its way to the House floor.

“Why are we flying in an executive director of Parent Revolution from California to talk about Florida schools and parents in Florida and what they need?" said the Florida Education Association's Jeff Wright. "How in the hell does he know what parents in this state need?” (Jeff Wright quoted) (Jeff Wright quoted) (Jeff Wright quoted) (Jeff Wright quoted)


Latest proposals let best charters set own enrollment numbers

Gov. Rick Scott’s pitch to lift enrollment limits on charter schools is drawing lukewarm support from fellow Republicans in the Florida Legislature, with many saying they are cautious about giving a green light to expansion. The high-profile collapse of some charter schools is contributing to the Legislature’s go-slow approach, lawmakers said. “I support the charter school movement, but schools that have not been accountable hurt all of them,” said Sen. David Simmons, R-Maitland, a member of the Senate Education Committee. “Responsible charter schools are the ones who should demand that we don’t have any more black eyes.” Simmons’ area was rocked last year by the closing of NorthStar High School, a charter school with 180 students where the principal was earning more than $300,000 annually and received a $519,000 contract buyout even as the school was failing. Several top senators say they are wary about Scott’s call to let charter schools expand at will. Under current law, enrollment size is set under terms of the charter granted a school by the local district. At best, legislation in the House and Senate looks likely to authorize only high-performing charters to expand when they want. High-performers are defined by law to be those earning ‘A’ grades as schools in at least two of the last three years and solid financial reviews. An analysis by The Palm Beach Post also showed that charter school, voucher and online education companies had gotten lawmakers’ attention by pouring more than $2 million into Florida political campaigns, primarily helping Republicans who demand more alternatives to traditional public schools. Opponents, though, also dug in. The Post found the state’s largest teachers’ union spent $3.9 million on campaigns, and Florida Education Association President Andy Ford said Tuesday that he’s been working senators to scale-back Scott’s push. “We’re just looking for a reasonable approach,” Ford said.


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