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Charter-School Trigger Bill Passes House 68-51; Flagler’s Hutson Among Dissenters

| April 5, 2013

The measure would give parents a bit more than a voice in a failing school's fate.

The measure would give parents a bit more than a voice in a failing school’s fate.

A bill giving parents more say in the fate of failing schools passed the House over bipartisan opposition Thursday and now heads to the Senate, where it died last year on the final day of session.

The measure (HB 867), part of a package of education bills approved Thursday, passed the House on a 68-51 vote.

Crossing party lines to oppose the measure were seven Republicans: Rep. Halsey Beshears of Monticello, Rep. Mike Fasano of New Port Richey, Rep. Tom Goodson of Titusville, Rep. Ed Hooper of Clearwater, Rep. Travis Hutson of Elkton (Hutson represents Flagler County), Rep. Holly Raschein of Key Largo and Rep. David Santiago of Deltona.

House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, said he was pleased the bill passed, and brushed off questions about the opposition from members of his own party.

“We didn’t whip it at all,” he said. “It was one of those bills where we let members vote how they want to vote.”

Commonly known as the “parent trigger” bill, the proposal would allow parents to petition their school district to consider a specific turnaround option for a school that receives an “F” on the state report card for two consecutive years. If the district rejects the parents’ plan in favor of another one, the State Board of Education would choose which plan would be implemented.

The debate in the House largely followed the well-worn paths of the past two years, with Republicans saying the bill promotes parent involvement in schools while Democrats argued that the bill would allow well-funded for-profit education companies to bankroll petition efforts and take over a school.

“Let’s recognize that while failing schools abandon children, parents never do. … And so, if schools are unwilling to change, we have a moral obligation to force that change,” said Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach.

Rep. Cynthia Stafford, D-Miami, argued that parents aren’t the only ones with a stake in what happens to a school.

“The alumni, the business community, the church in the community, the residents in that community all have a vested interest in that school,” she said. “The bill allows a group of parents to change the status of a given school forever, not just while their own child is there.”

Attention turned quickly to the Senate, which defeated the bill on a tie vote last session.

“Now it’s up to the Florida Senate to kill this bill which puts corporations before parents, students, and teachers,” said Scott Arceneaux, executive director of the Florida Democratic Party. “We must not let partisan politics cloud our children’s futures.”

But supporters say the fight in the Senate will be different in two respects. First, many of the renegade Republicans who voted against the measure — including Fasano — are no longer in the Senate. Second, the bill last year was different, Senate President Don Gaetz said, because it didn’t cast the petition as a recommendation.

The initial draft of last year’s bill would have required school districts to implement a plan backed by a majority of the parents at a school, but that was softened to a recommendation in later drafts.

“So the fact that we have 15 new senators and the fact that the bill is not the same means that I think last year’s vote is not necessarily a telltale of how the vote will come out this year,” said Gaetz, R-Niceville.

The House also approved several other education measures Thursday, including one (HB 7029) aimed at opening the state to more online education providers. Democrats slammed the measure for cutting the funding for the Florida Virtual School and for doing away with a provision requiring online education providers to be based in Florida to receive state funding.

“They could be in China, they could be in India, they could even be in North Korea,” said Rep. Irv Slosberg, D-Boca Raton.

Republicans dismissed those criticisms as fear-mongering, saying that the State Board of Education would still have to approve any online education provider. And they said Democrats were missing the point.

“This bill is not about providers,” said Rep. Manny Diaz, R-Hialeah. “This bill is about children.”

The bill was approved 82-37.

The House also voted 87-29 to approve a bill (HB 7009) toughening standards on charter schools. Some Democrats dropped their opposition after Republicans took out a controversial portion of the bill dealing with when a charter could obtain unused public school buildings.

And the chamber passed bills cracking down on cyber-bullying (HB 609), encouraging schools to recognize “American Founders’ Month” in September (HB 295), promoting the use of school recreational facilities for non-school activities (HB 525), and making it a third-degree felony to give harmful material to minors on school grounds (HB 113).

The House also voted out a measure (HB 461) requiring individual educational plans for deaf or hearing-impaired students to address communication.

–Brandon Larrabee, News Service of Florida

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11 Responses for “Charter-School Trigger Bill Passes House 68-51; Flagler’s Hutson Among Dissenters”

  1. PCer says:

    Voting no on HB 7029 is a huge hit not only to Florida Virtual School, but also to districts. It breaks the funding up into 1/7 instead of 1/6 FTE per class funding. So, if students want to take extra courses, they won’t be funded at the same rate.

    • PCer says:

      oops – that should say voting YES on hb 7029 is a huge hit. The House did education a big disservice with this one.

  2. johnny taxpayer says:

    So parent’s should not have a choice in how to fix the failing school their children attend? This is absurd.

    “The alumni, the business community, the church in the community, the residents in that community all have a vested interest in that school,” she said. “The bill allows a group of parents to change the status of a given school forever, not just while their own child is there.” -Actually this bill allows Parents to become part of the solution, if their solution doesn’t work, further parents have their opportunity to fix that. It always amazes me how some politicians are fine with parents choosing whether or not their baby can even be born under “pro choice” but can’t trust that same parent to choose how their child should be educated.
    I’m also amazed at the teachers union’s opposition to this bill, isn’t the constant mantra from them that the teachers are working hard, but the isn’t enough parental involvement? Seems like this bill wold solve that pretty quickly by getting more parents involved!

    • Amanda says:

      Parents have always had a say in their child’s education. It’s called homeschooling. I don’t trust most of the parents in the community to decide how my children are educated because I’ve seen the public, and they aren’t the sharpest crayons in the box. Talk about dumbing down America, this law would effectively make our children ignorant. Parents can also opt to exercise their right to school choice if their kids are zoned for a failing school.

      • Liana G says:

        “this law would effectively make our children ignorant.” What was responsible for their parents not being “the sharpest crayons in the box”? Could be these same parents have realized that public education failed them and feel that any alternative is better than more of the same.

        It’s not hard to figure out that to succeed means to copy what successful people do. And successful people send their kids to private schools/great schools. School choice gives everyone that opportunity regardless of if everyone chooses to take advantage of it.

        Florida needs a Rahm Emmanuel. Someone with real chutzpah to seriously reform the system.

        Grade inflation should not be the default fix for ineffective teaching and weak administration. And shuffling these individuals around from one school to another doesn’t fix the problem either. It only exacerbates it!

        To Mr Harrell – history teacher at ITMS. My daughter mentioned to me not too long ago how she wished she could sincerely thank you for being “the teacher that will forever remain her favorite”. So I thought that me publicly recognizing you is a small way to do so. Thank you for being such an inspiration to her. She still has your notes and claims she still reads them. Hearing her speak of you reminds me of my fourth standard / 6th grade teacher, Ms Glasgow. She was an inspiration and encouragement to me and my 3 other siblings. So much so that we still speak of her with fondness and admiration. All the best…and thank you.

    • teacher says:

      No…parents shouldn’t have a say. They have no idea how to run a school. I went to college for 7 years to do what I do. You raise your child at home and I will educate them at school because I know what I’m doing.

  3. Xaddgx says:

    “making it a third-degree felony to give harmful material to minors on school grounds (HB 113).”
    …So, what happens to most high school science experiments? Ugh.

  4. Out of curiosity says:

    Pleasantly surprised to see the freshman Rep. looking at the merits of the bill and voting accordingly, well done Mr. Hutson.

  5. Bethechange says:

    Curious. Exactly HOW does the bill “…force parents to get involved?” And “quickly” at that? I’m a parent and sometims a patient, a shopper, a vacationer and the list goes on and on. I have a vested interest in the quality of the products I consume and the services my family and I receive. How does that translate directly into my ability to efficiently evaluate aforementioned quality? Why is it that any and all products & services provided and endorsed by the government become the intellectual domain of the masses? It is delusional, bordering on the egomaniacal to propose expertise on the simple premise of being a taxpayer. Forgive me if that sounds like an oversimplification, but ieven in its most basal form it’s a thesis compared to the paranoid,blanket, all-encompassing rant so popular these days that ALL schools are failing ALL students. My husband and I are involved in our childrens’ public education and with one doing well in college and another on his way, it is apparent that supporting our schools and teachers has worked for our family. Shut up or put up. From what I’ve seen, this bill is moot, because rational parents are just too busy and more often than not for all the RIGHT reasons, to even know where to begin ‘fixing’ their childrens’ schools.

  6. John Boy says:

    Another Right Winged bigoted religious based solution looking for a problem. The Republicans will not be satisfied until they make the country into their model of civilization, “Somalia West”. When will people wake up and take control of our political process and stop all these crazy old grumpy white men.

  7. Ol' sarge says:

    First of all…morals are subjective. For someone to say they have a “moral obligation” to do anything implies everyone else would have to agree.

    Second…parents could start with turning off the TV and doing the MINIMUM time they are asked to do by the teachers of helping their child with their homework!! If parents are so concerned, taking an active role in their lives at home would be a nice start.

    Third…maybe parents could spend less time talking about how unfair tests are and how wrong standards are and spend more time parenting and teaching children about respecting authority figures and taking accountability for their actions. Too often, kids are disciplined at school, and the parent gut reaction, is to find out how to get their kid out of trouble…is that the message you really want to send??

    Last, and just as paramount…educators go to school for a minimum of four years (most of them at least seven), not counting the endless hours of extra professional development (for which they are not paid), the summer trainings, the workshops, etc…etc…etc…all part of learning HOW TO EDUCATE CHILDREN!!! Being a parent DOES NOT MAKE YOU QUALIFIED to run a school or make blanket decisions that affect the well being of entire classrooms!

    Parents…if you want to affect change in the lives of your children and the education of others, start with the bare minimum…try maybe SHOWING UP FOR A PARENT /TEACHER CONFERENCE every now and then…better yet, when was the last time you read with your child??

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