Parent Empowerment Legislation set for Debate

One of the most controversial education bills being debated in Tallahassee this year is the Parent Empowerment, or Trigger bill. The legislation would allow parents of students in D or F schools, and perhaps even C schools to petition the school board to turn the school into a charter school. The legislation would open schools to corporate attacks.

Imagine the most negative political mailer you’ve ever seen. Now imagine it in your mailbox and talking about your child’s school.

Legislation pending at the Capitol would allow 51 percent of the parents in a school that isn’t showing improvement to sign petitions asking the school be turned into a charter school. Christine Bramuchi of the group Fund Education Now says the bill would turn school improvement into a political campaign. “It’s going to pit parent against parent. it’s going to tear apart the fabric of the community.”

The legislation contemplates disagreeing parents. Under this legislation, the parents of each student would get just one vote, but if those parents disagree, it would still count as a half vote for the charter option.

Parents were not allowed to testify before a Senate Committee Saturday. “It makes us furious.”

They argue the legislation is about profit, not parent empowerment.
Colleen Wood of the group “50th No More” was emphatic. “We do not support this corporate empowerment bill.”

House sponsor Rep. Fred Costello of Ormond Beach says the legislation is about improving public schools. “Empowerment is about the children. It’s not about the parents.”

But Dawn Stewart of the Florida PTA says parents wonder if they idea is to give them power, they question why they haven’t they been included so far. “No one contacted the Florida PTA in helping to draft this legislation. To me, that speaks volumes. They did not want the parents involved.”

The legislation is scheduled for a vote on Tuesday.

Tough new grading standards adopted last week is likely to increase the number of schools that would be eligible for charter options under the legislation. Other school legislation would increase by 50 million dollars the amount of money corporations can give to private schools instead of paying taxes to the state.

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