A vote on the controversial "Parent Trigger" bill has been pushed back until tomorrow in the Florida Senate.
The so-called "Parent Trigger" bill would allow parents in under-performing schools to opt for certain turnaround programs, which is really another way of saying the schools would become privatized as Charter schools for profit. Groups who have pushed for the law are Foundation for Excellence in Education, a non-profit led by former governor Jeb Bush, and Parent Revolution, funded by, among others the Walton Family Foundation, and Students First, a national organization founded by Michele Rhee (an education adviser to Gov. Rick Scott) that supports “school choice,” charter schools and standardized testing. It's also quite possible there's involvement from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) which writes cookie cutter legislation for bills just like this one all across the country, although they deny involvement. Parent Trigger bills similar to this one have popped up in several states like California.
How ironic, or in other words, how Republican, that a bill called a "Parent Trigger" and is spoken of as a school "choice" issue is anything but. One group that opposes it? Parents. Unfortunately they haven't been allowed much of a say in the matter. In fact the Bush group has pushed back against parents who oppose:
The Foundation for Florida's Future sent out a fundraising letter seeking "pushback," saying: "Despite incredible successes over the past 10 years, those who seek to protect the status quo are as passionate as ever. This includes the League of Women Voters, AFL-CIO, Florida Education Association and local affiliates such as FundEducationNow and Save Our Schools."
If the lobbyists who have been hired to pass this bill are accusing Florida parents of defending our cherished neighborhood public schools, we say, "Guilty as charged." We love our children and the children of this state more than ourselves.
And it's not just the push back. Parents who have traveled to Tallahassee to voice their opinion have been all but shut out, or perhaps a better phrase would be "shut up or silenced."
We are frustrated that, for the third time in a week, a Florida parent testifying against the "Parent Empowerment Act" was cut off after less than 15 seconds. We travel to Tallahassee on our own dime. We arrange for baby sitters, help with homework over the phone and miss precious hours of our children's lives in order to tell our elected officials what we want. We're tired of being cut off, interrupted or not allowed to speak. We've heard one politician after another say that "parents really need to be empowered." The irony is that we are empowered. We're here. We've been here.
When politicians grant highly paid lobbyists unlimited time to testify and refuse to let us speak, it makes us furious. We are Florida taxpayers, parents and voters. If we don't have a right to speak during "parent empowerment" testimony, who does? We are tired of being told by wide-eyed politicians that they have never heard from us. Our position on the "parent- trigger" bill has been published by every major newspaper.
And it's not just the lobbyists. Parents who are in favor of the bill and who have been allowed to speak weren't actually from Florida, but from out of state.
Parents denied a chance to be heard feel this is more a corporate empowerment bill than one of parental choice:
Not one legitimate parent group has asked for "parent-trigger" legislation. We do not support this corporate empowerment bill that uses parents' love to "pull the trigger" and pass all that they hold dear into the hands of a for-profit corporation eager to peel off a chunk of every child's per-pupil funding money for itself. We will not be silent while legislators use our money to fund three separate, unequal and unfair systems of education. We do not support laws that benefit 10 percent of the schools while the other 90 percent suffer.
This has gone too far. Florida public education is a process, not a product. This asset was created for and financed by the people of this state. It belongs to us. We will not apologize to anybody for defending our schools. We oppose the "Parent Empowerment Act" and its bad-faith intentions to privatize our public schools.
This bill comes after severe budget cuts to public schools already suffering, making them vulnerable to what amounts to a hostile takeover to privatize the schools. Parents have every right to be angry. From the party that so often accuses Democrats of wanting to "force regulations and laws down the throats" of everyday Americans, what better definition of that very same thing than what's happening with this bill?
The probably party line vote has been pushed back because the votes were too close to call.
Let's hope there aren't enough votes Friday. Privatizing schools would only benefit the profiteers pushing it, and education, and our children are the ones who will suffer the most.