Narrowly defeated in the Senate last year, charter school management organizations and conservatives are ready to push so-called “parent trigger” legislation once again.
Part of the reason advocates are taking another stab at what they prefer to call the “parent empowerment” law is because last year’s tie vote that killed the bill was partially blamed on in-fighting among Republican senators. However, there has since been turnover in both chambers with Democrats gaining seats. That makes “parent trigger” an even tougher battle this session.
Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, filed SB 862 today. It is similar to the final version of last year's failed SB 1718. The proposal would allow parents at failing schools to choose a turnaround strategy for the school by signing a petition. One option, of course, is to convert the school into a charter school.
SB 862 allows local school boards to choose the option it thinks is best for students even if they disagree with what parents indicated. However, the state Board of Education can override that and side with parents. Stargel said she agreed to sponsored the legislation in the Senate (a House version is expected soon) because as a parent of five chilren she believes in its mission.
Noting how similar the bill is to last year's version, she said she doesn't plan any major changes in strategy for getting it passed. "Some of it was on the policy, a lot of it was based on politics," Stargel said about last year's failed effort.
Former Gov. Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education or state-based Foundation for Florida's Future along with charter school management organizations are expected to be major proponent of the bill.
Opposition here will likely be fierce and vocal. Not only do school boards and teachers unions oppose “parent trigger,” but virtually all of the state’s parent groups, including Florida PTA.
And we're hearing that even charter school operators themselves, the individual owners and mostly non-profit boards that run these schools, think “parent trigger” is a distraction as they push for more funding and resources for charter schools.
Like last year's proposal, SB 862 also requires districts to notify parents if their children are being taught by teachers who are "out of field" or have recieved unsatisfactory evaluations. Districts would have to also let parents know that virtual instruction exists and that those teachers are "in field" and have received high marks.
SB 862 also keeps language from its predecessor that says students cannot be taught two consecutive years by a teacher who has received "unsatisfactory" or "needs improvement" evaluations.
There are some differences, however. SB 862 removes language currently in state law that allows schools to retreat from the designated turnaround option if the school grade improves. And it also relaxes requirements that new turnaround options have to be chosen if school grades don't improve within two years. Teachers at low-performing schools might actually like this part of the bill, since they have often complained about changing strategies and efforts from year to year.