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Florida 'Parent Trigger' Law Fails—Again

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The so-called "parent trigger" law died again today in Florida, as it did last year, on a 20-20 vote in the state Senate.

"I have not heard from one parent who supports this bill," state Sen. Nancy Detert, a Republican, told an Orlando Sentinel reporter. She voted against it for the second time, telling the newspaper: "In two years, not one parent has ever called me."

In fact, a number of parent groups—including the Florida PTA—actively opposed the bill, which would have let parents initiate the overhaul of a struggling school through a petition.

"It's a good day for all parents and children in the state of Florida," said Eileen Segal, president of Florida PTA in a telephone interview. "We're quite thrilled, and quite thankful to the six senators who stood outside party lines and did what their constituents asked." In fact, Detert was joined by five Republican senators who voted against the bill.

On the other side, the Orlando-Sentinel reported that Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, expressed his opinion during debate on the bill, saying, "Is there anything more sad than being stuck in a failing school? Because that's what's happening right now." The bill would have let "parents jump in and make things happen," Bean said.

Segal said parents already have remedies in place if they are dissatisfied with their schools' performance. The state offers magnet schools, charter schools, voucher programs, and the opportunity for parents from schools that have received an "F" to transfer their children to other schools within their district. "So this bill wasn't really empowering parents," she said.

Segal said she, the state PTA's legislative chair, and parents routinely attended legislative sessions to follow the parent-trigger proposal. "I'm very happy with the outcome," she said.

In Florida, a common criticism among the anti-trigger organizations has been that no parent groups in Florida supported the bill last year, either. Within the past week, a group called "Sunshine Parents" emerged, highlighted in a video produced by Parent Revolution—the California-based organization that supported the first parent-trigger law in the nation.

In an Education Week State EdWatch blog posted today, Andrew Ujifusa examines the claims and counter-claims from various parent groups inside Florida, and beyond the state's lines, about just how much state-centered parental support the newest iteration of the trigger law received.

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