UPDATE: (Correcting my speculative comments) The bill will be going back to JD Alexander’s budget committee – not the PreK-12 budget committee. It will most certainly pass out of this committee after tomorrow morning’s meeting and reach the floor early next week. Opposition is still significant and the issue remains fluid. (235 pm central time)
From Dara Kam in the Palm Beach Post:
Unable to withdraw a controversial ‘parent trigger’ bill approved by the Florida House yesterday, Senate GOP leaders instead scheduled an early-morning meeting Saturday to hear the measure, supported by former Gov. Jeb Bush and Senate President Mike Haridopolos.
The “Parent Empowerment” (SB 1718, HB 1191) would allow parents to determine the fate of troubled schools and convert them into charter schools or turn them over to private management companies. Parents could even reject school boards’ recommendations for low-performing turnarounds.
A coalition of parent groups, including the Florida PTA, oppose the measure, saying it makes parents at low-performing schools vulnerable to lobbying by for-profit charter schools and management companies.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers, was involved in a dispute in a Senate committee earlier this week. Critics of the proposal said a 4-3 vote on the bill came after the “time certain” ordered by Senate Education Appropriations Committee Chairman David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs.
But Senate Rules Chairman John Thrasher, a St. Augustine Republican close to Bush, approved the vote and tried to withdraw the bill from the budget committee, which was supposed to hold its final meeting this afternoon.
Removing the bill from a committee and sending it to the floor requires a two-thirds vote. Sen. Jack Latvala, R-St. Petersburg, objected and asked for a vote on the withdrawal. The withdrawal failed by a 20-19 vote.
Thrasher’s involvement means that parent trigger legislation has reached the end game. The nearness of the withdrawal vote may not mean the votes against the legislation are necessarily there yet as some senators may just be objecting to circumventing procedures. Tomorrow’s committee meeting is now critical as republican proponents on the budget committee will have to face objections from members of their own party.
With Jeb Bush’s foundation all-in from the beginning on parent trigger – warts and all – the powerful former governor may become involved personally. Its important to note that two potential no votes on PreK – 12 Budget didn’t vote last time – Sen. Gary Siplin, D-Orlando and Sen. Paula Dockery, Lakeland. It is the independent-minded Dockery who will be receiving the most pressure between now and tomorrow’s vote. It is this reality which prompted Thrasher’s attempt to circumvent the committee vote.