Will Rick Scott’s Parent Trigger Push Bring California Style Fraud to Florida?

Largely escaping the notice by Florida’s ed policy observers this week was a blurb from the Miami Herald that the so-called “parent trigger law ” is part of Rick Scott’s agenda for schools in the next legislative session. Scott’s mouthpieces just didn’t call it that.

* EDUCATION — The governor appears to be reviving the proposal to require a  percentage of a school’s budget be spent on the classroom with a plan to require  the classroom spending in districts “not meeting standards.” He also is  considering asking legislators to adopt the Texas approach to higher education  “and better link job market demands to degrees.” A Tier 2 priority is creating  “Education Spending Accounts” so that parents can take money from the public  school system and spend it on outside educational needs.

* PUBLIC PENSIONS — Unnamed reforms to the Florida Retirement  System appear on the governor’s agenda again this year as a Tier 2  priority. Police, paramedics and firefighters will be stroked, however,  this political year as the governor considers reversing his proposal — and  the legislature’s passage — of a law to raise the retirement age for  special risk workers from 55 to 60.

* CHARTER SCHOOLS — Charter schools would continue to gain strength if the  governor succeeds with his proposal to allow a public school to become a charter  school with a majority vote of the parents, instead of a majority vote of the  teachers.

The parent trigger proposal is not new to Florida. Michelle Rhee let the cat out of the bag  when she pitched the proposal to lawmakers earlier this year.

His informal education adviser Michelle Rhee also tipped off lawmakers of one more idea that’s coming: More power for parents to change the way their school is run. She called it the “parent trigger,” a nod to California’s controversial but groundbreaking law that allows parents to petition for reforms at low-performing schools.

Rhee explained that the recommendation would be a simple word change. But it could have major impact on school operations.

The charter school law [1002.33 (3)(b)] would be altered to say that 50 percent of parents or teachers can vote to convert a traditional school to a charter, rather than 50 percent of parents and teachers. That’s potentially even broader than the California law, which limits action to low performing schools.

California’s law is already under dispute, with that state Board of Education slowing its implementation at a recent meeting. Wonder what kind of reception Scott’s proposal will get if and when it arrives.

Looks like Scott wants to carve teachers completely out of Rhee’s bill. Small wonder his flacks didn’t use the name. But Scott and the legislators who will be sponsoring the Parent Trigger law will be sure to brush aside concerns about the  fraudulent manner its been manipulated in California. Nevermind the facts about the shady groups who did the manipulating. From Re:Education in Baltimore:

The parent trigger law was introduced by Gloria Romero, a former California state senator. She is now the director of the California branch of Democrats for Education Reform, or DFER. Ben Austin drafted the law. Austin is a former deputy mayor of Los Angeles and a policy consultant at Green Dot Public Schools, a charter school operator. Austin has a seat on the Los Angeles school board – California governor Jerry Brown dismissed him from the state education board – and he is the executive director of a nonprofit called Parent Revolution.

DFER is a political action committee run by hedge-fund managers and investment bankers. Closely tied to KIPP charter schools and Teach for America (the single largest donor to which is now the Walton Family Foundation), DFER’s aim is to close the “achievement gap” between students in poor black Harlem and their peers in rich white Scarsdale. To that end, the PAC raises money for Democrats who push an education agenda that includes the closure of “failing” public schools and the proliferation of charter schools. It’s an agenda shared by the Obama administration, and it’s being pushed by their education reform competition, Race to the Top.

What the Los Angeles Times calls an umbrella group  is actually a front group for those who would profit from schools being turned to charters.  DRER’s executive director testified in front of two Florida legislative  education committees this past January during the run-up to the passage of SB736.  Parent Revolution already has cheerleaders in Florida. Teacher and writer Larry Ferlazzo described Parent Revolution’s California caper:

…… an outside group with zero ties to a local community parachutes several fulltime organizers into a neighborhood that they picked for its demographics; the group has a clear agenda and is generously funded by several foundations with their own clear political agenda; there are no meetings with any other stakeholders to identify common issues and explore new solutions; and a non-negotiable demand is then announced.

Opponents of what’s become education reform driven by profiteers will quickly recognize the templates and deliberately misleading AKA’s.   Is the California game plan about to be run in Florida?

UPDATE: I have properly credited Re:Education in Baltimore above. Apologies to Edit Barry.

About Bob Sikes

A long time ago and a planet far, far away I was an athletic trainer for the New York Mets. I was blessed to be part of the now legendary 1986 World Series Championship. My late father told me that I'd one day be thankful I had that degree in teaching from Florida State University. He was right and I became twice blesses to become a teacher in the late 1990's. After dabbling with writing about the Mets and then politics, I settled on education.
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