For the second straight year, significant parent opposition to “parent trigger” legislation in Florida has led to defeat in the legislature despite powerful supporters, including former governor Jeb Bush.
The “parent trigger” is intended to give parents with children at low-performing schools the legal right to petition the state or district for a change in school structure, with the parents getting to pick from a list of options (which include turning the school over to a private management company).
Proponents say it gives parents more options and power in their children’s education. Opponents say it is a stealth way of turning traditional public schools into charter schools and that it will lead to more privately run schools.
A parent trigger bill in the Florida Senate died Tuesday in a tie vote, with a group of Republicans joining Democrats to defeat the controversial legislation. It had passed in the House.
Bush, who still exercises influence over education matters in Florida through two foundations even though he has been out of office since 2007, can’t be pleased with the outcome.
In Florida, every major parents group opposed the legislation, for a variety of reasons, including the fact that there is already a law that give parents a role in turning a traditional public school into a public charter school.
The parent trigger campaign in Florida has recently been marked some unusual episodes, including the gathering of signatures on a pro-parent trigger petition by StudentsFirst, Michelle Rhee’s advocacy group, that includes names of people who didn’t sign it. Tampa Bay Times columnist John Romano said in this piece that the petition backfired:
The petition was supposed to prove this pro-charter school legislation had grass roots support among parents, but instead it highlighted what critics have been saying all along:
This law is about pushing Jeb Bush’s education agenda, and little else.
The Florida legislation was supported by a pro-charter California nonprofit called Parent Revolution, which has been behind three efforts to convert troubled public schools in California. Two landed in court, splitting the communities with accusations of deceptive practices. A third effort at an elementary school in Los Angeles was much less fraught with controversy and recently resulted in parents voting for the Los Angeles Unified School District to work together with a charter management company to improve the school. It was the first time in the country that a parent trigger law has been used to force changes in public schools without a court fight.