Saturday, March 3, 2012

Parent Trigger: "Scholastic snake oil with a deliciously deceptive spin on parental engagement"

This Saturday morning, Florida State Senators attended a special budget meeting that included consideration of SB1718, the so-called Parent Trigger. The committee meeting was hastily called and hit several procedural speed bumps and political posturing by bill proponents. However, efforts to short-circuit the process and fast track it were denied by committee members.

Passing this bill is a priority for former Governor Jeb Bush, who issued a statement urging its passage, as well as funding speakers at today's hearing. Hailed by bill proponents as "giving parents that voice they need to make sure their children are receiving the best education possible," journalist Darryl Owens asked where the parents had been all along. In his piece published in the Orlando Sentinel, Owens precisely and perfectly describes the bill this way:
Scholastic snake oil with a deliciously deceptive spin on parental engagement.

Shirley Ford, a Democrat from the California-based pro-trigger Parent Revolution organization used the "the children cannot wait" as the importance of this bill. Florida Senator Evelyn Lynn informed her of all ways, including vouchers, in place today and that Florida is not California. Ford asked if Florida had ways that parents had impact on school decisions, not just a place at the table. Senator Lynn explained how community schools exist that offer just that.

Ms. Ford raises an important issue that is left unanswered. Does a Parent Trigger give the voice parents need? Grumpy Educators says categorically no. The Parent Trigger that allows a charter to move in is simply moving around the deck chairs. For real change to occur at chronically failing schools, the last ten years of test-centric instruction must end. Common core standards, increased testing, and a narrowing of curriculum does not address the specific barriers and impacts at the school level. Until parents have the right to opt-out of standardized testing regimes, they have no voice to impact the education their children receive. Schools must cease to be centers of test preparation and be true centers of learning. Rational accountability measures must replace excessive standardized testing.

Scathing Purple Musings reports additional significant insights from today's hearing. Here are a few that should not be missed:

Parent Revolution representative Michael Trujillo, mentioned “reams and reams” of positive results but didn’t bring any with him. When pressed by Sen, Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, who’s also a school superintendent, evaded testifying as he was “just there to provide technical background on the legislation.”

Sen. Steve Wise, D-Jacksonville, who remarkably voted for an amendment to clarify who was eligible to join a petition, had another meltdown moment. Wise irrationally bemoaned opposition by parent groups to parent trigger in a way which failed to even consider the technical points they emphasize. It was predictably visceral and vintage Steve Wise demagoguery. Wise asked “whether or not the parent groups were psychotic” and that “he needs prozac and xanax” to deal with them.

A young intern of Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Florida’s Future attempted to present himself as a former teacher and was outed by Sen.Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood. Now a law student, he was naturally for the bill.

Notably, bill proponents filled the time, ran the clock, leaving opponents, real Florida parents, waiting and excluded from participation. The committee voted on a firm vote time and with five minutes left, Senator Alexander invited any parent in the room to speak. The Miami Herald reports "a mom from Gainesville came forward against the proposal. But she was cut off at 9:59 a.m. so the secretary could call the roll. There was no time for debate among lawmakers."

Grumpy Educators finds there is no priority for this bill. The legislative analysis for the Senate bill indicates there will be fiscal impact at state and local levels. Money trees are not in bloom anywhere in Florida. The only way this unfunded, unfundable mandate will get funds is through increased property taxes. In the end, parents, students, community members, and taxpayers are further UNempowered by Tallahassee's persistent fiscal and legislative irresponsiblity.

The bill will move quickly to the Senate floor for a vote. Take a moment to call your State Senator, tell them that a NO vote is a demonstration of who exactly they are accountable to.

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