Pic by sebrenner, via Flickr

The controversial “Parent Trigger bill” filed by Rep. Michael Bileca, R-Miami, was approved by the Florida House in a party-line vote Thursday.

Bileca’s bill would, among other provisions, authorize parents of students who attend a failing public school “to submit a petition to the school district requesting implementation of a school turnaround option.”

The U.S. Department of Education‘s “turnaround” models include replacing the principal, rehiring no more than 50 percent of the staff, and reopening a school as a charter school (i.e. one that is publicly-funded, but privately managed).

The Senate version of the GOP-sponsored “Parent Trigger bill” for K-12 education filed by Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Ft. Myers, passed a state Senate subcommittee Tuesday.

Opponents have argued that the bill is “a slap in the face of parents” who believe decisions should be made at the local level. They say it will take schools away from elected officials, and give them to for-profit enterprises.

Rep. Dwight Bullard, D-Miami, proposed an amendment to the bill that would allow parents of charter school-educated children to petition conversion back to another charter, a magnet school, a Montessori school, or a traditional public school. That amendment was met with strong opposition from Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Shalimar, who called it “absurd” and “intellectually bankrupt.”

Bullard defended his amendment, arguing that many schools eventually converted to charter schools began as publicly-owned schools. Charter schools, he said, fail at a higher rate than public schools. His amendment failed.

Rep. Rick Kriseman, D-St Petersburg, praised Bileca for his efforts to hear from both supporters and opponents of the bill but added that he would vote against it, because it allows charters schools to lobby and make gifts to parents, in order to sway them in favor of conversion or turn around to charter schools.

Rep. Bileca closed the debate by saying that House members need to focus on the needs of children and the parents who have the best interest of those children.

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