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Battle over parent trigger bill heating up

IMG00026-20120305-0936 (1)A coalition of Democrats and Republicans is gearing up to fight the so-called parent trigger bill.

On Monday, Senate Minority Leader Nan Rich, D-Weston, spoke out against the proposal, which would allow parents at low-performing schools to demand changes of the administration, including having the school converted into a charter school. 

“The centerpiece of this legislation has nothing to do with empowering parents,” Rich said. “But it has everything to do with the hostile corporate takeover of public schools across Florida -– a direct attack on public education.”

Rich was joined by Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland.

Said Dockery: "Even if you support school choice like I do... this bill goes too far."

The parent trigger bill is expected on the Senate Floor Tuesday. It should be an interesting debate. Late last week, Sen. John Thrasher tried to put the bill on a fast track through the upper chamber. But 12 Democrats and 7 Republicans blocked the move, setting the state for a tense Floor vote.

Will there be enough votes to defeat the bill? Rich said she is "optimistic."

Florida parents have voiced fierce opposition to the bill. 

Its high-profile backers include former Gov. Jeb Bush and education reformer Michelle Rhee.

Supporters of the parent trigger bill attended Monday's press conference, but did not speak publicly. After the conference concluded, they maintained that the bill was not designed for charter-school companies, but rather as another way to help turn around persistently failing schools.

Later, backers released a statement form Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa: "The Parent Trigger movement, that started in Los Angeles and now is spreading across the nation, encourages involvement in the education process and drums up the kind of support and encouragement necessary to build the foundations for student achievement."