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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Parent trigger: It's all in how you look at it



California-based Parent Revolution, the organization that began parent trigger concept on the west coast, claimed an "important, bipartisan step forward" had took place Tuesday. From the group's overnight press release: 

"Yesterday, the Parent Trigger law took a big step forward in the Sunshine State as members of the Florida Senate Appropriations committee gave bipartisan support to the bill, voting 4-3 in support of the Parent Trigger legislation. This most recent committee action follows as the Parent Trigger legislation received bipartisan support in both the Florida House education subcommittee and the Senate education committee. Now the bill will be heard before both the Florida Senate and House floors.

"The Parent Trigger legislation, introduced by Representative Michael Bileca and Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto, was originally developed in California but takes on a number of new provisions, developed through bipartisan collaboration that ensures protections for parents and their local schools. Lawmakers have repeatedly worked across the aisle and included significant oversight to ensure that parents are protected and that the Parent Trigger process fosters collaboration between parents and their schools. ...

"Unfortunately, despite these collaborative, bipartisan efforts, the Florida Education Association decided to go “all in” to oppose parent power, spreading the numerous lies and misinformation that have been spread since day one in the parent empowerment fight. FEA even went so far as to threaten the legislators with legal action if the legislation follows."

It's all a matter of perspective. The bipartisanship was really a single Democrat, Sen. Jeremy Ring, who saved the bill as two Republicans balked at the heavy handed way the bill was handled in committee.

As we reported, in just 20 minutes Tuesday, a key Florida Senate committee rushed through its approval of the hotly contested "parent trigger" bill, which would give parents at F-rated schools the right to petition for turnaround models and also assure parents that their children won't have teachers evaluated as needing improvement two years in a row.

The hearing included review of a strike-all amendment, questions by members and five minutes for public comment, for which chairman Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, urged everyone to waive in support or opposition rather than actually speak. The panel rushed against the clock, as Sen. Steve Wise, R-Jacksonville, had called for a time-certain vote of 1:27 p.m. — three minutes before the meeting was to adjourn. (The meeting, by the way, had been scheduled to begin at 10:45 a.m. but didn't actually get started until nearly noon.)

Senators Nancy Detert, R-Osprey, and Evelyn Lynn, R-Ormond Beach, voted against the measure, which squeaked by on a 4-3 vote.

Meanwhile, the parent trigger continues to run a spate of bad press in its home state. The LA Times reports that in Adelanto, just the second place it has ever been tested, parents are now fighting over the petitions. Supporters are claiming opponents illegally altered their petitions to defeat their charter school effort.

In Florida, bill sponsor Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto said she had amended her legislation to strengthen petition requirements, in order to avoid problems occurring in California. The House version is scheduled to arrive on the floor today. Stay tuned.

[Last modified: Wednesday, February 29, 2012 1:18pm]


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