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Florida Parent Trigger Bills Would Allow Parents To Fire Teachers, Turn Schools To Charters

First Posted: 01/30/2012 3:23 pm Updated: 01/30/2012 3:31 pm

Two bills in the Florida legislature would give parents overarching power to demand sweeping changes at low-performing schools.

Under the first parent trigger proposal -- House Bill 1191, or the Parent Empowerment Act -- parents would have the power to fire school staff. A majority of parents could also petition to have the principal replaced or have a charter school operator take over the school. The second proposal, HB 543, or the Parental Involvement and Accountability in the Public Schools Bill, would conversely require elementary school teachers to grade parents on their involvement -- on issues like communication and student rates of absence and tardiness.

Republican state Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto told WINK-TV that HB 1191 would force school improvement.

"The full intent of the bill is to get parents engaged and involved in the turnaround process," Benaquisto said.

But while supporters aim to give power to dissatisfied parents, critics -- including the Florida Parent Teacher Association -- says HB 543 would simply promote charter schools.

"This isn't about empowering parents," Mindy Gould, legislative chair for the Florida PTA told The Miami Herald. "This is about handing over the neighborhood school to a private, for-profit corporation."

Parent trigger laws exist in California, Texas and Mississippi. California's was the first of its kind in the country, inspiring some 20 other states to draft similar legislation. Two states have rejected parent trigger bills.

A piece of parent trigger legislation proposed in New York last summer would give parents of a failing school the ability to either fire half the school's teachers, dismiss the principal, close the school or turn it over to a charter management company.

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Filed by Emmeline Zhao  |