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Answer Sheet
Posted at 02:08 PM ET, 03/06/2012

Parent trigger: A farce in Florida

There’s one important thing missing from the effort in Florida to pass a bill that would institute a “parent trigger” allowing parents to force specific changes at low-performing public schools: support from Florida parents.

The legislature has been considering whether to join a movement started in California that gives parents with children at low-performing (based on standardized test scores) to ask the state or school district to bring in a private company or charter school operator to take over the school. Upwards of 20 states are considering similar laws, and a few have already passed “parent trigger” legislation.

When this was first tried in Compton, Calif., the effort was organized by a pro-charter school organization called Parent Revolution — a Los Angeles organization funded in part by the Walton Family Foundation rather than by local parents, and it severely divided the community.

In Florida, the effort is being pushed by pro-charter forces, including Parent Revolution and the Foundation for Excellence in Education, which is run by former Florida governor Jeb Bush, who has an unusual amount of influence in Florida education for an ex-governor.

In fact, the there is a coalition of parent organizations, led by the Florida PTA, that has been opposed to the bill. Why?

Because many parents see the parent trigger as a divisive measure that is more about converting traditional public schools into charter schools – which are often run by for-profit entities – than about finding authentic ways to improve education for kids.

"It has everything to do with laying the groundwork for the hostile, corporate takeover of public schools," Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich of Weston, was quoted as saying by the Associated Press. "Parents will divide against parents and even children will divide against children."

Under the Florida legislation, if school officials can’t improve the school sufficiently in a year, parents can settle on a turnaround program that they want and, with enough signatures on a petition, get it implemented. Some critics of the bill note that most parents aren’t in a position to adequately evaluate which turnaround programs work and which don’t.

Supporters of the bill say that teachers unions are behind the opposition. But, in fact, there isn’t a major parent group in Florida that has come out in support of the legislation. In fact, parents who spoke in support of the bill in Florida weren’t from the state!

Let’s hear it for real parent engagement.

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By  |  02:08 PM ET, 03/06/2012

 
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