Tony Bennett’s Curious Meddling in Parent Trigger


So Parent Trigger legislation predictably moved through a House committee yesterday along party lines by a 8-5 vote. But the most interesting news of the day came in the form of a letter that Florida’s new education commissioner, Tony Bennett sent to the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland) and Rep, Carlos Trujillo (R-Miami). See this Kathleen McGrory story in The Buzz for the link. Consider this part of Bennett’s March 6 letter:

…..One of Florida’s strengths is the emphasis it places on local control and responsibility of education. The legislation as written includes language that may let local school board members off the hook when it comes to respecting a parent’s role in the process.

Rather than allowing an appeal process that shifts responsibility to the State Board of Education, which is not best equipped to understand the local sensibilities of these issues, parents, teachers, students and community members have a right to make sure that when parents vice an opinion, its gets considered. School boards should not have the ability shift the decision to the state. They owe it to parents to consider what they have to say without being able to avoid the tough decisions. Indiana has had success with similar duties for school districts and it is important that we continue to had local communities accountable in Florida for improving our education system.

Further, the process laid out in the bill seems o require an overly burdensome process for parents to navigate when working to improve their child’s school. Rather than a formal process for notices, votes, petitions, local officials should be held responsible for listening to those who know their students best – their parents. Simply put, if a group of concerned parents, no matter how large, show up at a school board meeting or calls board members on the phone, those school board members have a duty to carefully consider what those parents have to offer. Parents should have a say, and it should count more than anyone else’s, regardless of a formal petition process.

Bennett is neither naïve nor a stupid man. He knows that local school boards do not have the sort of leverage in the charter school appeals process as he writes. He knows that the state board – on which he has a vote – routinely sides charter school against the boards he describes as “best equipped to understand the local sensibilities of these issues, parents, teachers, students and community members.”

What a whopper. Bennett is establishing a double false narrative at the beginning  – his  celebration of local control is rich – to justify a position. What follows is a broadside against the Florida school boards he presumes to celebrate. Consider:

The legislation as written includes language that may let local school board members off the hook when it comes to respecting a parent’s role in the process………Rather than a formal process for notices, votes,  petitions, local officials should be held responsible for listening to those who know their students best – their parents. Simply put, if a group of concerned parents, no matter how large, show up at a school board meeting or calls board members on the phone, those school board members have a duty to carefully consider what those parents have to offer.

The first statement reveals Bennett to be a hypocrite – he’s for local control except when he isn’t. In the second, he’s writing as if the relationship between school boards and parents isn’t already this way now.  Bennett knows this isn’t true. But like most disciples of Jeb Bush, he knows that local school boards are the last political opposition they face.

If local school boards weren’t sure whether or not they could trust Bennett to be an honest broker, this letter to two legislators ends all doubt. His letter actually had very little to do with Parent Trigger legislation. It was intended to establish his bonefides as a benevolent advocate for parents and portray local school boards as their enemy.

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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3 Responses to Tony Bennett’s Curious Meddling in Parent Trigger

  1. It is called “double-speak” used by politicians today as the the approved way to lie to the taxpayers without really lying!

  2. Mark Matasovsky says:

    With Tony Bennett a likely pick as Education secretary in a Jeb Bush administration, will that be enough to turn Indiana “blue” again in 2016?

  3. tom james says:

    Bennett is jebbys waterboy. Get rid of dick scott and we get rid of jebby and bennett.

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