It's parent trigger time in the Florida Legislature

It's the third day of Florida's 2013 legislative session, and the parent trigger bill that tied up lawmakers until the close of the 2012 session is back. Senate Democrats have already conceded they don't have the votes to stop the measure, which would give parents the power to petition for specific turnaround options including charter school conversion in their failing schools. House leaders have predicted easy passage on their side. But with opposition still mounting from parent and civil rights groups, which have called the idea controversial, experimental and lacking in evidence, lawmakers are softening the bill's edges as it heads to committee. The House subcommittee on Choice and Innovation, which takes up the legislation this afternoon, has proposed its own substitute for the original HB 867. A key change it is recommending would add a provision that if a school in the midst of implementing a turnaround measure improves its school grade by at least one letter, the turnaround option "is no longer required." That's already in state law, but its addition makes clear that school improvement could stop parent trigger in its tracks. The PCB would not change other provisions allowing for the petition, giving school boards the right to adopt the parent proposal or its own alternative, and then sending the ideas to the state for final determination as to which one "is more likely to improve the academic performance of students at the school." The bill additionally would require annual notification to parents whose children are assigned to a teacher with consecutive poor evaluations, and disallow the assignment of a student to a teacher with consecutive poor evaluations in the same subject area during the following school year. (That part of the bill concerned school district officials more than the petition part last year, because of the potential scheduling problems.) The parent trigger remains a hotly contested national proposal, and it has been used only a handful of times in California with limited success. Eyes again are on Florida, considered a breeding ground for education trial balloons, as the discussion reemerges. Gov. Rick Scott has signaled he would sign the bill into law if it comes to his desk. After that, it would be up to individual schools to see how it would be used. The bill takes its first steps today. Watch here at 1 p.m.


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