Parent Trigger? More like Parent Trojan Horse deigned to privatize education!

From the Orlando Sentinel’s editorial board
Last year, a plan purporting to give parents greater say in turning around failing public schools kicked up plenty of dust in the Florida Legislature.


In the end, House Republicans passed the so-called parent trigger bill. Fortunately, this misguided measure died in a deadlocked Senate.

The idea — and the opposition — returned this session. Like last year, the House has endorsed the Parent Empowerment in Education bill. Its turnaround options include opening the door to for-profit charter outfits to swoop in and sway parents to convert F-schools to charters.
Today the Senate version of the bill, SB 862, introduced by Lakeland Republican Kelli Stargel, is slated to be heard in the Senate Education Appropriations committee. Lawmakers should drop the proposal like a bad habit.
Under the plan, a bare majority of school parents could petition their local school board to adopt a specific turnaround plan, such as firing the school’s administrative and teaching staff. Or parents could petition to convert the failing school to a charter, or go further and shutter and turn the school over to a private charter school management company. If the school board favors a different plan, the state Board of Education breaks the tie.
Advocates have justified the concept with a misleading catchphrase: giving parents a seat at the table. Why? Parents already possess strong input through state-mandated School Advisory Councils. Moreover, parents already are empowered under current law to request to convert underperforming schools to charters.
Meanwhile, critics such as the Florida School Boards Association correctly point out that parent trigger plans, though trendy, are unproven, usurp home rule and “could divest taxpayers of valuable property.”
Taxpayer-paid assets shouldn’t be bequeathed to private operators. Yet, backers insist the idea isn’t a Trojan horse that privatizes education and funnels public dollars to charter profiteers. An argument that rings hollow given the money charter management firms have spent on lobbyists to push the idea across the finish line.
And here’s what’s also telling: Groups representing parents, who are supposed to be the big winners under the bill, are among its leading foes. Parent-centric groups like the Florida PTA oppose the bill. Parents, the PTA says, already own that coveted seat at the table.
Full Senate deliberation could come next week. Like last year, Florida’s public-school students would be best served with the Senate once again killing this unneeded measure.

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