1. Opinion

Education bill gives parents political power

Published Mar. 9, 2012

Today, the Florida Senate will have an opportunity to vote on Senate Bill 1718, the Parent Empowerment Act. The recent reaction to giving moms and dads a greater voice and more meaningful role in an existing process confirms that many of us are far too comfortable with the status quo. I support this bill for three reasons.

One, it gives parents political power. The Parent Empowerment Act provides parents a platform to engage in discussions on how to improve their child's failing school and, most importantly, to provide leverage for these moms and dads to achieve real change. Currently, countless Florida parents are limited to sending their children to persistently failing public schools year after year. Moms and dads want to provide their child with a solid, quality education, one that will launch their son or daughter to achieve their dreams. The more involved a parent is in their child's education, the greater chance that child has to succeed. So why would we deny concerned moms and dads the right to engage in transforming a failing school?

Two, parental power actually works. In California, where the "parent trigger" was born, parents have used this law to successfully negotiate as equals with the school district and demand the programs and access to technology they see in schools with different ZIP codes. They seek real changes from their schools that will ensure a high quality education for their child; only once have they petitioned for a charter school.

Third, parent empowerment is a bipartisan issue. Today, as we are surrounded by partisan bickering on so many issues, on this issue we should all agree. The parent trigger movement is an example of Democrats and Republicans working together to empower moms and dads with information and tools to engage and invest in their child's schools, and Florida's Parent Empowerment Act is no exception. National and state Democrats from congressman George Miller to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa have voiced their support, along with African-American leaders. And the Florida House passed its bill with votes from both sides of the aisle.

This legislation doesn't hand over the keys of public education to any one person or entity. It gives parents a voice to demand for their kids the quality education each child deserves. This should be something we can all support.

Jeb Bush is the former governor of Florida and chairman of the Foundation for Florida's Future, a nonprofit that promotes education reform in Florida.