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Senate Education Panel Okays Parent Trigger As Compromise Fizzles Out

A bill giving parents a greater say in the fate of failing public schools is now moving though the Senate, having cleared a key education committee vote.

The proposal, sponsored by  Senator Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland) is also known as the parent empowerment bill to its supporters. But opponents say the problem with failing schools is deeper than just giving parents yet another option:

“If you look at the success of schools that have turned around you’ve had a total commitment of parents and the community in general. And that’s what I think we need to focus on. Just simply giving another option, I’m not sure is going to make a difference," said Senator Bill Montford (D-Tallahassee).

The bill is backed by pro-school choice groups and opposed by the state's parent groups and teachers unions. It would impact about 25 schools in the state labeled as failing and would let parents petition a school board to consider one of four, federally-mandated turnaround options, such as closure, administration overhaul or conversion into a charter school.

Stargel had crafted a compromise amendment to the bill giving school boards the ability to override the parent option if it felt the choice wouldn’t improve student learning. That amendment was withdrawn.

A companion measure has already cleared the House. The parent trigger failed last year in the Senate due to infighting in the chamber.