In a press conference held Monday, state lawmakers representing both parties, along with members of Florida’s Parent Teacher Association, spoke out against the controversial K-12 education “Parent Trigger bill” currently moving through the state legislature.
The bill, filed by GOP legislators in Florida’s House and Senate, would 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).
Speaking at today’s press conference, Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, said that the bill is too extreme. “I support school choice,” said Dockery, a member of the Budget Subcommittee on Education Pre-K – 12 Appropriations. ”I support charter schools and vouchers, but this bill goes too far.”
Dockery added that, had she not been sick, her vote in the Budget Subcommittee would have killed the bill.
Opponents have argued that the bill is “a slap in the face of parents” who believe decisions should be made at the local level and will take schools away from elected officials, and give them to for-profit enterprises.
According to Parent Revolution, a California-based organization backing the bill, the measure isn’t being led by charter schools or business-backed groups and actually has the support of many in the public school system. Supporters also include Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education.
Calling it a ”direct attack on public education,” Sen. Nan Rich, D-Sunrise, said Monday that “the centerpiece of this legislation has nothing to do with empowering parents.”
Rich added that the bill is tied to the American Legislative Exchange Council, a right-wing outfit funded by “billionaires such as the Koch Brothers.”
“We do support charter schools in the non-profit world,” said Dawn Steward, vice president for education at the Florida Parent Teacher Association, during the press conference. Steward added that “we should make sure [teachers and schools] have the necessary resources,” and “not have corporate America come in here and fix our schools.”
Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, also spoke out against the bill, saying that there is already parental involvement in public schools.
In March 2011, Sobel organized a forum on the state of public education in Florida that highlighted the need to increase administrative support for teachers. According to at least one participant in the forum, research has shown that teachers are the most important influence in schools.
Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, who supports investing in public education, better pay for teachers, and limiting the scope of standardized testing, said Monday that the bill cheats “students,” “parents,” and “the state of Florida.”