Florida parent trigger bill gets another green light – and growing opposition

The Florida parent trigger bill cleared another hurdle in the Legislature on Tuesday, getting a 7-5 party-line committee vote in the face of heavy opposition.

Rep. Trujillo is a co-sponsor of the House parent trigger bill

Rep. Trujillo is a co-sponsor of the House parent trigger bill

At least 27 people signed up to speak against the bill. Four others signed up in support.

“This legislation is not being called for from parents in Florida,’’ Jeff Wright, director of public policy advocacy for the Florida Education Association, told members of the House Education Appropriations Subcommittee. “The fact is, every credible parent group, including the Florida PTA, the NAACP and LULAC Florida are opposed to this bill.’’

HB 867 would allow parents with children in an F-rated school to petition the school district to consider a turnaround plan that could involve bringing in a charter company. A majority of parents would need to sign the petition.

A similar bill passed the House last year, but was defeated in a down-to-the-wire tie vote in the Senate. A companion to this year’s House bill has yet to move through the Senate, but Tuesday’s hearing suggested rising drama, again. As they did last year, opponents said the bill was a vehicle to privatize public schools.

Determining the direction of a school “should be a collaboration between teachers and parents,” Donald Peace, a 32-year veteran public school teacher from New Port Richey, told lawmakers.

But the bill’s co-sponsor, Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami, said parents still don’t have the best seat at the table when it comes to making educational choices for their children – and the parent trigger helps them get it.

“The person who knows what’s best for their child is the parent,’’ he said.

Only one parent, a mother from Quincy, spoke in support of the bill. Representatives from the Foundation for Florida’s Future, Students First and the Florida Chamber of Commerce also voiced their support.


A dose of reality on Planet BAEO

I did not see any of these evil alien privatizers at the BAEO Symposium.

I did not see any of these evil alien privatizers at the BAEO Symposium.

Only 76 miles separate the Step Up For Students office in Tampa and the Orlando hotel where the Black Alliance for Educational Options held its annual symposium last week. But my Corolla must have hit a black hole on I-4, because I landed on another planet.

I didn’t see anybody from the American Legislative Exchange Council on Planet BAEO. But at lunch, I did sit next to a sad-eyed woman from Kentucky whose grandson recently graduated from high school even though he can’t read.

I didn’t see anybody itching to privatize public schools. But I did learn about Papa Dallas, a black man whose eyes were burned out as a slave because he was caught learning the alphabet.

I didn’t see the Koch Brothers. But I did see, just minutes after arriving, an image of black men hanging dead from a tree while a crowd of white people loitered.

I learned as a reporter, years before joining Step Up, what BAEO was about. But it was still jarring to see, up close, how much reality clashes with “the narrative.”

The symposium drew 650 people from 20 states, including 50 current and former elected officials, the vast majority of them Democrats. All night Thursday and all day Friday, I heard them talking parental empowerment, black empowerment, achievement gaps, equal opportunity. I heard a lot of thoughtful, passionate people. I heard frustration and desperation too. If it was all a front for profiteers, then BAEO orchestrated more actors than a Star Wars flick.

Critics “call me a corporate reformer all the time,” said Sharhonda Bossier, a former public school teacher who helps lead Families for Excellent Schools, a school choice group based in New York City. “I’ve been told that I’m being duped. I’ve been told that I have an interest in undermining the black middle class. I’m like, ‘Are you looking at me?’ “ Continue Reading →


Florida roundup: Charter school bill, state colleges, student retention & more

Charter schools. The Senate Education Committee moves closer to agreement on additional charter schools accountability measures, but a divide lingers over facilities funding, reports The Buzz, which includes this quote from Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee: “The time for finger pointing between charter schools and regular public schools is over. We have to have the maturity to sit down and go over the data and discuss it.” A legal timeline is set to determine the fate of an Imagine charter school in Sarasota County that seeks to sever its relationship with the parent company, reports the Sarasota Herald Tribune.

florida roundup logoState colleges. They have a $26.6 billion annual economic impact, according to a new study. Coverage from GradebookStateImpact Florida, TCPalm.com, Lakeland Ledger, The Florida Current.

Parents. Angry parents keep the pressure on the Broward school district over the firing of a popular principal. South Florida Sun Sentinel.

Principals. A pending reshuffling in Broward is getting tense. Miami Herald.

School boards. Former Osceola County School Board Chair Cindy Hartig applied for unemployment benefits after her loss at the polls last August. Orlando Sentinel. Continue Reading →


What school choice parents have to say

DFER | Charter School Authorizer from Make It Pop on Vimeo.

The voices of rank and file parents are seldom heard in school choice debates, an omission the Tennessee branch of Democrats for Education Reform attempts to ameliorate in this video. We disagree with the video’s use of the phrase “lousy district schools.” We think that wording is unnecessarily contentious and divisive. But these moms are fighting for their children and they should be heard.


Why is a parenting organization working against so many parents?

From the beginning, when my children were barely out of pull-ups, I was a school-choice mom. Living in a rural area, surrounded by cows and NASCAR flags, I insisted on driving 45 minutes one way, every day, so my kids could attend a Jewish preschool. Despite massive headaches caused by northern drivers on vacation, I knew the learning environment provided by the JCC was best for my kids, building a strong foundation to support lifelong learning.

PTSAAs preschool graduation neared, my husband and I chose an excellent, traditional public school for them to attend for their elementary years. This school was not located in our neighborhood and we couldn’t afford to move. But, because I was a teacher in that same district, I applied for the choice program and my children were accepted. It meant I had to transfer closer to home and still drive a half-hour out of my way, but I felt fortunate to place my children in a school that would meet their needs.

After leaving the teaching profession, I once again exercised my right to choose. We moved the kids into a private Jewish school for the rest of their elementary education. My husband and I had to live in a simpler neighborhood and forgo little luxuries, like fashionable shoes and date nights, to make it work, but our boys excelled in their new learning environment.

For middle school, our family moved yet again, prompting jokes that compared us to nomadic ancestors, and we applied for a magnet program. Once more, we were lucky. Our sons won the lottery and were accepted into a dynamic, academically rigorous program.

Who knows where we’ll end up for high school?

During these public school years, I’ve been a consistent PTSA member. Joining this organization seemed the best way to be involved in my children’s school. PTSA volunteers are dedicated parents, teachers, and students committed to helping schools raise needed funds that enhance learning opportunities. I joined to show my support for those who were educating my children, and to act as an important presence among teachers and administrators.

Over the years, though, I sadly watched the PTSA take positions that alienated moms like me, moms who choose. Sure, the organization is a presence at my sons’ middle school – they sell magnets for cars and snacks at sporting events. The PTSA agrees that magnets are a valid choice, but parents who choose other options are not represented by the PTSA and, worse yet, are regularly dismissed in alerts and agendas. I would often read PTSA literature and wonder out loud:

“Why is a parenting organization working against so many parents?”

But I’m not one to give up easily. Continue Reading →


Florida roundup: charter schools, magnet schools, career education & more

Charter schools. Supporters are trying a different approach this year to securing facilities funding for charter schools, reports the Tampa Bay Times. Lawmakers split along party lines on a charter schools bill, reports StateImpact Florida. A new charter schools network is eyeing the site of a former fundamental middle school in Pinellas, reports the Tampa Bay Times. Parents say Polk district officials aren’t telling students at a district middle school that they’re eligible to attend a charter high school in Lake Wales, reports the Winter Haven News Chief. An educator returns to his roots in Cocoa to start a charter school, writes Florida Today columnist Matt Reed. The Bay County school district is reviewing a troubled charter school’s finances, reports the Panama City News Herald.

florida roundup logoMagnet schools. A magnet in Flagler aims to help student who “aren’t clicking in mainstream schools.” Daytona Beach News Journal.

Parent trigger. Palm Beach Post: “The goal isn’t to improve schools, it’s to improve the bottom line for for-profit charters.”

Graduation requirements. Lawmakers consider alternative pathways for career education, reports the Orlando Sentinel. More from StateImpact Florida.

Parents. Parents of two students assaulted at a Pinellas school for disabled students are planning to sue, reports the Tampa Bay Times. A small group protests alleged bullying by administrators at a Deerfield Beach elementary school, reports the South Florida Sun Sentinel. Continue Reading →


redefinED roundup: Tax credit scholarships in Alabama, vouchers in Tennessee, charters in Florida & more

Alabama: Gov. Robert Bentley signs the tax credit scholarship bill into law after the Alabama Supreme Court lifts a restraining order from a circuit court judge that prevented the bill from being sent to him (NPR). More from AL.com. The Alabama Education Association is running ads accusing lawmakers of betrayal for approving the bill (Sand Mountain Reporter).

MondayRoundUp_whiteIndiana: Gov. Mike Pence tells a crowd of several thousand school choice supporters that vouchers and charter schools are key pieces in ed reform (Indianapolis Star). More from  Associated Press, Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, Evansville Courier & Press. The proposed voucher expansion raises concerns about cost (Associated Press).

Pennsylvania: Lawmakers are set to consider several bills that would alter funding formulas for both virtual and bricks-n-mortar charter schools (Pittsburg Post Gazette).

Wisconsin: The state is holding back voucher funds from five Milwaukee private schools it says have financial and/or reporting issues (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel). Three private schools that lost accreditation continue to receive voucher funds because of a loophole in state law (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel).

Ohio: Gov. John Kasich proposes to hike charter school funding by 4.5 percent (Cleveland Plain Dealer).

Florida: One city in Florida turns its district schools into charter schools in an effort to boost quality (redefinED). A prominent Democrat helps lead the effort (redefinED). More than 600 gather in Orlando for the Black Alliance for Educational Options’ annual symposium (redefinED). Legislation to require safety alerts for private schools clears two more hurdles (redefinED).

Tennessee: Gov. Bill Haslam’s voucher proposal clears the House Education Committee (Associated Press). But a Republican senators puts forward a broader, alternative proposal (The Tennessean). The Rocketship charter school network plans to open eight schools in Nashville, beginning next year (Getting Smart). Nashville school district officials are stunned (The Tennessean). They also worry about the financial fallout of a bill that would create a statewide charter school authorizer (The Tennessean). Continue Reading →


On school choice frontier, lessons from Lake Wales

The community takeover of Lake Wales public schools feels so much like an educational Camelot that it is easy to forget this romance was spawned by Florida’s charter school conversion law. It’s also easy to forget that its local benefactor was a powerfully connected Democrat.

Students at Bok Academy Middle celebrate their school's designation as an Apple School of Distinction.

Students at Bok Academy Middle celebrate their school’s designation as an Apple School of Distinction.

The account of these schools and their champion, Robin Gibson, so ably reported this week by redefinED associate editor Sherri Ackerman, is a poignant reminder that school reform and school choice can indeed start in the homes of parents who think children are not getting what they deserve. Gibson, an attorney who helped run campaigns for former Democratic governors Lawton Chiles and Bob Graham, and was once chairman of the state university Board of Regents, thought his own children and the tiny city of Lake Wales were being hampered by public schools that were treated like stepchildren. So he began an effort, in 2002, to convert them to charters.

“I don’t think there’s anything partisan about it, if you’re for a first-class education system, ’’ Gibson says today. “I think everyone’s for that. I’m an advocate for what works, and I’m an advocate for educating the entire demographic.’’

Unsurprisingly, there was resistance. But Gibson and his friends brought sophistication and enterprise to the effort, taking over five schools in 2004 and starting a sixth from scratch. The charter campuses of Lake Wales now enroll 3,800 students – ranking them ahead of 15 of the state’s school districts in size – and the academic success has put the schools on track to be designated “high performing” under charter law.

The Lake Wales conversions provide educational as well as political lessons. Continue Reading →