Controversial ‘parent trigger’ bill gets first nod from House subcommittee
A bill that empowers parents.
A bill that hands public schools over to private interests.
A red herring.
No matter what you think of the so-called parent trigger proposal, one thing was made clear Thursday: the bill will be among the most contentious of the legislative session.
The proposal, which would allow parents to petition for dramatic changes at failing public schools — including having a charter school take over — won the approval of a House education subcommittee by an 8-5 vote along party lines.
More telling than the vote was the impassioned public testimony that preceded it.
Advocates of the bill, including representatives from former Gov. Jeb Bush’s education non-profit, the Foundation for Florida’s Future, argued that the legislation would give parents a more prominent role in local school systems.
“As you look across the state of Florida, what you will see (is that) a lot of parents really want to do something about their schools,” said former state Sen. Al Lawson, a Tallahassee Democrat involved in the charter school movement.
But parent groups, school districts and the teachers’ union criticized the bill, saying it was crafted for private education interests seeking to boost enrollment, receive more money from the state and take control of taxpayer-funded school facilities.
“The Florida PTA feels very strongly that this is misleading the public and it could have devastating results to our kids,” said Dawn Steward, the organization’s vice president for education. “We want you to pull the bill, not the trigger.”
The subcommittee on choice and innovation in education debated the proposal for 30 minutes before voting it up.
“This is giving a tool to parents in failing schools,” said Rep. George Moraitis, a Fort Lauderdale Republican.
While it is still early in the session, observers believe the parent trigger has enough votes to pass the Republican-dominated House and Senate.
When asked about the bill Thursday, Gov. Rick Scott played coy, saying he hadn’t yet had a chance to review it.
“When I look at it, I can give you my thoughts,” he said.
Read education commissioner Tony Bennett's letter about parent trigger here.