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Parent trigger moves forward in Senate

The contentious parent trigger bill got its first hearing in the Senate Education Committee on Monday. Not surprisingly, it passed along party lines.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Kelli Stargel, would allow parents to petition for sweeping changes at failing traditional schools. One possible change: having the school converted into a charter school.

SB 862 is different from its companion in the House. The House version prevents students at struggling schools from having ineffective or out-of-field teachers for two years in a row; the Senate bill has no such prohibitions, though it does require schools to notify parents when their children are assigned to poor-performing instructors. 

Most parents in the audience on Monday spoke out against the proposal. A handful expressed their support, including Nicolas Gutierrez, a Miami-Dade County attorney and father of three. "Is this [bill] perfect? Of course not," Gutierrez. "But it's a step in the right direction."

(Gutierrez was appointed to the South Florida Water Management Board by former Jeb Bush, who has championed the parent-trigger proposal. Gutierrez later told The Miami Herald his relationship with Bush had nothing to do with his testimony.)

Stargel said it was too soon to say if there would be enough votes for the measure to pass on the Senate floor. It failed on the last day of session last year.

"I think we have much more support [than last year]," Stargel said. "What happened last year was more political than about policy."

The House version heads to the floor of the lower chamber later this week.