Saturday, March 10, 2012

Florida Parent Trigger: Too many holes

Parents, community members, and taxpayers pushed back on the Florida "Parent Empowerment" bill and those efforts were successful. The bill died on the last day of the legislative session in a tie vote, 20 to 20. The Miami Herald reported last minute arm twisting by former Governor Jeb Bush to influence a change of position by one Senator to ensure its passage in case the bill came up for a re-vote in the final hours of the legislative session. That did not happen and the bill can be declared officially dead and buried for this year.

Much has been reported regarding the way the process of the bill unfolded including the testimony provided by non-Florida parents and residents and lobbying by non-Florida non-profits to the exclusion of Florida parent groups such as, the Florida PTA and Florida League of Women Voters. The pressure injected all the way to the end is an indicator of how much money was riding on its passage.

Analysis of the bill itself received less attention. The Thursday night Senate debate included discussion of over 20 amendments, which exposed the bill as something far other than a thoughtfully crafted piece of legislation. The amendments were intended to close serious gaps, but instead made clear the bill was more akin to a piece of Swiss cheese than a movement toward parent empowerment, local control, and fiscal responsibility.

On its merits, this bill is little more than changing the deck chairs. As long as classrooms are test-centric and standardized environments for test preparation instead of student-centered environments of learning, there is no real reform.

The Florida legislature has a penchant for "pass it now, fix it later" legislating.
Proponents of this bill used the familiar and worn-out education reformer narrative that answers valid questions with disdain and insults. Why not answer the question with facts? Opponents were characterized as "conspiracy theorists" and concerns dismissed and ignored.

Undoubtedly, the bill will return next year. However, Florida parents, community members, and taxpayers learned much this year; and as others with legitimate concerns about education reform initiatives nationally, becoming more visible and active in federal and state-level shaping of education. The push back is real and growing.

Related article: Parent Trigger: "Scholastic Snake Oil with Deliciously Deceptive Spin on Parent Involvement."

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