From Kathleen McGrory of the Times/Herald:
As expected, Sen. Kelli Stargel‘s parent trigger bill won the support of the Senate appropriations panel Tuesday — and is now headed to the Senate floor.
There was, however, one plot twist.
At a previous committee stop, Sen. David Simmons added language that would give school districts the final say in determining how to improve a struggling school. (That is, they could ignore a group of parents demanding change.) Sen. Lizbeth Benaquisto filed an amendment Monday to remove that provision, and let the state Board of Education make the final call.
But Stargel had the amendment withdrawn at the start of Tuesday’s hearing.
It isn’t that Stargel wants to keep Simmons’s language. In fact, she wants it stripped from the bill, too.
“I want to make sure parent voices are actually heard and not just taken under advisement,” she said, adding that Simmons also had a change of heart about the language.
But Stargel said she needed more time to figure out how to “best handle the situation.” She said she would likely bring an amendment to the Senate floor.
What about Stargel’s assertion Simmons has “had a change of heart about the language.” If Simmons’ has changed his mind, he’ll have to walk back a few statements he made to the media at the time his amendment passed. This from Leslie Postal’s Orlando Sentinel story:
This will be a local solution,” Simmons said, adding he was “not looking for a Tallahassee solution.”
The proposal, Simmons said, was based on the concerns Education Commissioner Tony Bennett raised about the bill. In a March letter to lawmakers, Bennett said he worried the bill would allow local boards to “push the decision to the state.”
StateImpact’s Gina Jordan had this:
“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.”
Stargel may be having problems with her own colleagues. Two yes votes for Parent Trigger last year, Sen. Jack Latvala (R-Clearwater) and Sen. Andy Gardiner (R-Orlando) said during debate that they’d be unable to vote for the bill if local control were removed.
Aside for the fact that Stargel appears to be throwing Simmons under the bus, one should wonder why a couple of republican senators suddenly discovered their affection for “local control of schools?” They’ve been busy passing legislation for the past few years to allow charter schools to go over the heads of local school boards to a friendly state BOE when they don’t get their way. Perhaps they realize there is serious opposition in their districts.
Simmons never would have filed his amendment if there weren’t “local control” reservations among republican senators. He’ll need to be asked if he gave his blessings to Benacquisto to file an amendment that would kill his and if he’d indeed had a change of heart.