Florida Mulls Giving Parents School Takeover Powers

The Florida senate is voting over whether to give parents control over the fate of struggling schools. The proposed ‘trigger' law, similar to the emergency law in California that is currently being fought over in the court system, is predictably opposed by labor unions.

Labor organizers claim the law isn't about parental rights as its supporters claim, but is instead about undercutting the role and power of Florida's teachers unions. These unions are banding together now with like-minded allies to oppose the passing of the law in Florida.

"Gov. (Rick) Scott and the Florida Legislature have done more to unify the Florida labor movement in the state of Florida than anybody else could have ever done," said Andy Ford, president of the Florida Education Association, which represents schoolteachers.

The alliance extends to police, fire, nurses and other public safety workers, said Robert Suarez of Miami, vice president of the Florida Professional Firefighters.

If the bill, designated SB1718, which passed the House of Representatives easily, makes it into law it would give parents a number of options to deal with a failing school:

• Creating an improvement plan administered by the existing school district
• Closing the school and turning it into a charter school
• Closing the school and turning its management over to a private firm, or
• Closing the school and reassigning all the students to other campuses

All these options are already available to local school districts, so in essence all the bill does is put parental majorities on par with districts in terms of power to control the fate of their children's schools.

Supporters of the bill feel it encourages parental involvement in public schools and shifts power away from an education establishment that has become more associated with job protection than quality schools.

As parents in California found out, however, even if the bill becomes law it will only be the beginning of the fight for greater power to stop a school from failing their children, and any attempt to exercise their new found authority is likely to result in acrimonious lawsuits as evidenced in Compton.

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