So Republican Altamonte Springs senator David Simmons has crafted an amendment to Parent Trigger which he says was inspired by a letter from education commissioner Tony Bennett. StateImpact writer Gina Jordan explains:
Senators said they changed a key provision in the session’s most controversial education bill on the advice of Education Commissioner Tony Bennett.
Thursday a Senate panel approved the Parent Empowerment in Education bill, better known as the parent trigger bill.
Members altered the bill to conform with the House version, which has already been approved by the full House.
But they also made one big change: The local school board would have the final say in how to revamp a failing school.
The original bill gave the final say to the State Board of Education if the district and parents didn’t agree on a school turnaround plan.
“With the school district being the final arbiter of this decision, it’s going to take the heat as to whatever decision it makes,” said Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs. “Hopefully, it will turn around that school.”
Simmons said he suggested the change at the written request of Education Commissioner Tony Bennett.
Bennett’s concern is that giving the Board of Education the final say “may let local school board members off the hook when it comes to respecting a parent’s role in the process.”
So what’s up with all this?
Simmons is referring to Bennett’s March 6 letter. He responded to a comment by someone who was testifying during the April 1 Senate Education Committee that current law establishes the Florida Board of Education as having final say in any school turnaround anyhow. Simmons asserted that the presence of the wording in SB 862 was simply a reaffirmation of that status. Apparently Simmons and Bennett presumes that this amendment will trump other existing laws.
It’s misleading to characterize local school boards as “wanting to be let off the hook.” Bennett knows this and Simmons should. Florida’s school boards who unanimously are against Parent Trigger already don’t like having the power usurped in turnaround options and charter school applications and appeals. So why would republicans suddenly want to grant it with Parent Trigger?
Because they can’t get it passed without it.
Simmons’ amendment is cynicism with a side order of contempt that’s scattered and smothered by Jeb Bush’s political agenda. The former Florida governor cannot suffer a second defeat in his home state and his acolytes, Bennett and Simmons, are helping him save face. I guess Republican senators will be out preening for the cameras this week with “Support Local Control of Schools” t-shirts.