Parent Trigger Bill That Would Boost Conversions to Charter Schools Nearing Law
FlaglerLive | March 20, 2013
A contentious bill setting out a trigger that parents could use to transform their child’s school into a charter school is one committee vote away from the House floor after the Education Appropriations Subcommittee voted along party lines to move forward with the measure.
The 7-5 vote on the bill (HB 867) came on what is expected to be the last meeting where the panel considers legislation before turning to work on the budget for public schools.
The measure would allow parents to petition their school board to adopt a specific turnaround option for any school that draws an “F” on state report cards for two straight years. The only schools in Flagler County that have received F’s since 2000 have been charter schools (Heritage Academy, which the district was forced to close last year, and Palm Harbor Academy). The district itself had an overall A rating for four straight years until last year’s B, with most of its schools consistently performing at the A or B level. (See the chart below)
If a majority of parents were to sign the petition, the district would either have to implement the plan or submit both the parents’ plan and its own choice to the State Board of Education, which would then choose one of the proposals.
Supporters of the idea say it will encourage parents to get more involved in their children’s education and improve chances for children trapped in failing schools. But critics worry that politically savvy for-profit corporations could encourage parents to back the charter school option.
“Quite frankly, I don’t want my children or my students put up for auction,” said Wayne D’Anunzio, a parent and teacher who opposed the bill.
The committee spent more than an hour on the bill, which was one of the most controversial pieces of legislation in the 2012 session. Supporters are hoping that the more conservative bent of the Senate, which killed the proposal last year on a tie vote, will give the measure a chance to become law.
After concerns about for-profit charter schools helped sink the idea last year, proponents are going to great lengths this year to point out that school districts are already allowed to choose charter schools as a turnaround option under the state’s accountability law.
The parent trigger measure simply allows parents to have their own say about that option, they argued.
“This bill is not about charter schools,” said Rep. Jake Raburn, R-Lithia. “This bill is not about privatization. This is about giving parents a voice and requiring that the school district at least listen.”
Democrats and other opponents painted a different picture, saying that parents could be persuaded to push the charter school option, then ignored once the for-profit corporations have the outcome they want.
“Unfortunately, I don’t see this bill as parent empowerment but more parent exploitation,” said Rep. Karen Castor Dentel, D-Maitland.
Last year, the bill was the victim to infighting in the fractious GOP majority in the Senate.
Eight Republicans broke ranks with party leadership and killed the bill on a tie vote, but five of those Republicans have since left the Senate — giving the measure better odds of passing the upper chamber.
Still, the Senate counterpart to the bill (SB 862) has yet to be scheduled in any of the three committees to which it has been referred.
–Brandon Larrabee, News Service of Florida and FlaglerLive
Flagler County School Grades, 2001-2016
|Bunnell Elementary||C||C||A||A||A||B||B||A||A||B||B||A||B (C)*||A||B||C|
|Belle Terre Elementary||A||A||A||A||A||A||A||A||A||A||B|
|Old Kings Elementary||B||A||A||B||A||A||A||A||A||B||A||A||B||A||A||C|
|Rymfire Elementary||B||A||B||C||A||A||B (c)*||A||B||B|
|Indian Trails Middle||A||A||A||A||A||A||A||A||A||A||B|
|Buddy Taylor Middle||A||A||A||B||B||A||A||A||A||A||A||B||C||C||B||C|
|Flagler-Palm Coast High||C||B||B||D||C||B||C||A||D||B||B||B||A||B||B||C|
(*) In 2013, the state Board of Education agreed to pad grades in such a way as to prevent them from falling by more than one letter grade. More than 20 percent of schools benefited from the padding, including Rymfire and Bunnell elementaries in Flagler, whose grades would have been a C if the actual standards were applied.