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Senate Asked Again to Pull the Trigger on School Parent Empowerment

February 12, 2013 - 6:00pm

The school choice Parent Empowerment in Education bill, better known as the parent trigger, is back after going down to a narrow defeat in the Senate last year.

Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, has filed Senate Bill 862, which closely resembles the 2011 effort labeled "Parent Empowerment" that was blocked in a tie vote after one of its Senate sponsors, Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, changed his vote in protest of another bill not being advanced to the floor.

The act, backed by former governor Jeb Bush, would have allowed parents to seek wide-ranging changes at low-performing schools, including changing a traditional neighborhood school into a charter school and giving parents an alternative to sending their children to F graded schools.

Hays took a firm stance against the parent trigger act in defiance of Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, who kept a bill on workers compensation also backed by Hays from reaching the Senate floor.

Hays joined Republican Sens. Charlie Dean, Nancy Detert, Paula Dockery, Mike Fasano, Dennis Jones, Evelyn Lynn and Steve Oelrich and the united Democratic Caucus in opposing the bill.

Dean, Dockery, Fasano, Jones, Lynn and Oelrich are no longer in the Senate.

Meanwhile, Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, supported the bill last year, while a number of candidates he and future president Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, backed in the 2012 elections moved into the Senate.

The House, which also maintains a Republican majority, voted 80-34 to back the bill last year.

Democratic legislators quickly condemned the renewed effort.

We should focus our efforts on improving public schools, not giving up on them by handing the keys to a for-profit corporation, Senate Democratic Leader Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale, stated in a release. Our teachers, our children, and our public schools are not for sale.

Democrats argue the legislation would end up pitting parents against one another by allow a failing public school to be turned over to a private, for-profit charter management company upon the collection of 51 percent of parents signatures.

"This years bill, much like last years bill, has once again failed to get input from our parents and students from around the state, Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Miami, stated in the release. Parent Revolution and Senator Stargel are once again trying to use a California fix for a Florida problem that does not exist.

Reach Jim Turner at or at (772) 215-9889.

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