Florida Parents Do Not Support "Parent Empowerment" Bill


January 12, 2012- Orlando, Florida...A broad alliance of Florida education advocacy groups including: Citizens for Strong Schools, 50th No More, Florida PTA, Fund Education Now, Marions United for Public Education, Save Duval Schools and Support Dade Schools announced in a joint statement today that they do not support the so-called “Parent Empowerment Act," SB 1718/HB 1191.

“We want to be crystal clear. Our parent-driven alliance of education advocates does not support SB 1718/HB 1191, the so-called “Parent Empowerment Act.”  Reporters have been told by unauthorized sources that we support this scheme.  We do not. Everything about SB 1718/HB 1191, including its misleading  name, ”Parent Empowerment,” plays to a parent's instinct to find something better for their child, especially when the school in question is struggling. 

The “Parent Trigger” is a common ploy that has been attempted around the country.   This legislation cynically uses parents and their love for their children as a tool to pull the “trigger” and hand their neighborhood school over to a private entity with no true guarantee of gaining anything better for the children. The net result is that schools are taken away from the jurisdiction of duly elected district officials and the physical property of the school is seized and handed over to a for-profit management company. 

SB 1718/HB 1191 makes no provision for returning the school to the district, so the company essentially acquires an asset bought and paid for by taxpayers.  The Florida taxpayer is robbed of a significant capital investment and the newly converted charter, which promised to "Empower Parents" answers to no elected official and often has a board that resides in another state and in some cases, another country.  Much evidence exists that once the conversion takes place, these "Empowered Parents" might find that their child’s test scores don’t measure up.  The “underperforming” child is "pushed out" and not even allowed to attend the school. 

For these reasons, despite the name “Parent Empowerment,” SB 1718/HB 1191 does not earn our support.”

SB 1718/HB 1191 Facts:
  • Allows the vote of 51% of the parents in "certain underperforming schools" to "trigger" or pave the way for the parents to request one of the state's approved school improvement options.  Underperforming is a wide definition that was broadened to include D schools as well as F schools and various percentages of performance scores within subjects. 
  • Allows minor students and parents to comprise the 51% in middle and high schools
  •  Allows parents who have no legal ability to negotiate the contract or details with the new management company to designate the option completely eliminating the districts voice           
  • Requires that all parents be notified of the option to attend virtual school

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