by Félix Pérez
Politicians, lobbyists and corporate funded policy groups are formidable opponents accustomed to getting their way when it comes to legislation, especially when they work in unison. But in Florida, they ran across an opponent who gave them more than they could handle: irate moms.
It came down to a dramatic last-minute 20-20 vote in the Florida Senate, but parents effectively killed the so-called parent trigger bill Friday, March 9 – the final day of the legislative session.
The bill, whose proponents were led by Governor Rick Scott, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and former Washington, D.C., schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, a favorite mouthpiece of corporations seeking to cash in on students and public schools, generated contentious hearings, charges and countercharges.
In the end, though, political connections, corporate power and out-of-state special interests were no match for parent power.
Kathleen Oropeza, co-founder of FundEducationNow.org, a non-partisan Florida-based education advocacy group, was one of many parents who led the effort to stop what they called the corporatization of public schools.
Oropeza, in a widely circulated newspaper opinion column, wrote, “We do not support this corporate empowerment bill that uses a parent’s love to “pull the trigger” and pass all that they hold dear into the hands of a for-profit corporation eager for every child’s per pupil funding dollars for themselves.”
In addition to Fund Education Now, the parent trigger bill was opposed by every major parent group, including Florida PTA, Parents Across America, Testing is Not Teaching, and Citizens for Strong Schools.
In a joint statement, the groups said: “When politicians grant highly paid professional lobbyists unlimited time to testify and refuse to let us speak, it makes us furious. We are Florida taxpayers, parents and voters. If we don’t have a right to speak during “Parent Empowerment” testimony, who does?”
The bill would have enabled parents to demand sweeping changes at low-performing schools, most notably converting neighborhood schools into for-profit charter schools.
Florida is one of 20 states that is considering or has considered parent trigger laws. To stay up to date on this pseudo-education reform effort and others, sign up to receive weekly emails from EdVotes.