Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Florida’s Future (FFF) just released a handy-dandy Misconception-Fact list on Parent Trigger. Let’s explore a few of their “Facts” that don’t pass the smell test:
In response to “this bill allows for-profit companies to take over our public schools,’ FFF responds:
In Florida’s bill, parents have the option to choose a charter school or contract with an outside entity to operate the school. Both options require that the chosen operator must have a demonstrated record of effectiveness. All charter schools are public schools. There are non-profit entities called “charter management companies” that manage the charter school, and there are for-profit entities called “education management companies” that manage charter schools. In both cases, the students that attend charter schools are public school students.
This is badly tortured lawyer speak. Setting up a non-profit building and charging them obscene management fees is a not-so-clever way of saying you are a non-profit when you’re for-profit. This is how charter schools like Academica-Somerset and Imagine Schools are set up. Even some republican legislators find this arrangement shaky and have introduced legislation to tidy up this troubling practice. One needs to only look at the Sarasota Imagine school whose parents tired of the arrangement and are attempting to end the relationship. Imagine sued the parents. So much for choice and parents being empowered. Why FFF would attempt to defend this is, well, indefensible.
Or how about FFF’s response to “this bill allows outsiders to come in and take local authority away from our schools districts:”
This bill does not take authority away from the district, but rather creates a mechanism for parents to voice their opinion on the turnaround option for their child’s school. These are the same FOUR federally mandated options that the school district has to turnaround failing schools – opponents continue to focus on just ONE. Parents are seeking input in a process which is already in place.
Even the bill’s sponsors won’t go this far. If parent’s disagree with the local board’s decision, the Florida Board of Education settles the dispute. This has already proved to be a corrupted process as the Board routinely overrules it’s own state charter school board’s recommendation on behalf of well-connected charter school operators. The fact that FFF makes no mention of this here is deception by omission.
And finally this whopper in response to “there are no provisions in this bill to prevent parents from being “duped:”
The petition must identify on the front page the turnaround option that the signature is for. The Department of Education will actually establish the format of the forms. For-profits are specifically prohibited from gathering signatures or paying others to solicit signatures. The State board is going to have model forms for each of the federally-mandated turnaround options. There is a ban on paid per signature, signature gatherers. All signature gatherers must disclose what organization the person is with. Even though the document is signed – a parent’s vote is not “submitted” until the petition is submitted to the school board – so unlike a vote for president – a parent has a window, to change their mind – before the petition is submitted to the school board for approval.
House sponsor Carlos Trujillo conveyed the opposite during debate last week. He indicated that for-profits and out-of-state organizers like Parent Revolution can gather signatures under “first amendment protections.” This is indeed at-odds with the text of the bill. Nor does there appear to be any provision which provides that “a parent has a window, to change their mind – before the petition is submitted to the school board for approval.” FFF also leaves out the fact that parents can sign more than one petition. It’s even clear that Parent Revolution was involved in crafting this year’s bill, as considerable blurring now exists in signature verification.
There are other FFF points which some will find troubling. One in particular is targeted at the PTA. The release of such easily disputed talking points is remarkably reckless. By it’s own admission, Parent Trigger would affect a small number of schools and several of its provisions are already in place. What is it about this bill that Jeb Bush’s foundation has to have so badly that it’s willing have so many loyal republican legislators utilize political capital to pass?