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House passes parent trigger, too

Speaking of high-profile education bills in the House today...

The Parent Empowerment Act, more commonly known as the parent trigger, passed by a 80-34 vote.

The bill, HB 1191, would enable parents at low-performing schools to demand big changes. They could ask for new teachers and school leaders -- and in some instances, even petition to have a neighborhood school transformed into a charter school.

Advocates for the bill said it would give parents a seat at the table.

"It gives them the ability to be heard," said Rep. Marti Coley, R-Marianna. "It gives them that voice they need to make sure their children are receiving the best education possible."

Opponents, however, said the bill was meant to benefit charter school companies by giving them access to struggling neighborhood public schools. 

"The danger is that this could be used as another attack on public education," said Rep. Luis Garcia, D-Miami Beach.

A coalition of grassroots education advocacy groups including the Florida Parent Teacher Association had opposed the bill, and lobbied hard against it.

The Senate version, SB 1718, is awaiting a last-minute hearing in the Budget Committee.