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Rita M. Solnet Headshot

Profit Empowerment Not Parent Empowerment

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Why Parents Across America Opposes Florida's Parent Empowerment Legislation:

It represents neither real parent choice nor genuine empowerment.

Florida's new legislation is modeled after California's Parent Empowerment Act passed in early 2010. It is widely supported by backers of corporate reform.

The law creates a process known as the "Parent Trigger," which allows a majority of parents at a low-performing school to sign a petition to trigger one of a narrow set of options -- firing all or some of the staff, turning the school over to a charter operator, or closing the school.

None of these options improve the quality of the neighborhood public school.

Although PAA strongly supports authentic parent empowerment, we oppose this Parent Trigger process. While the Parent Trigger allows parents to voice discontent, it affords no opportunity to select among more positive reforms, and it fails to promote the best practices for parent involvement from the ground up. (History and background of this process can be found here.)

The Parent Trigger process creates potential for abuse, turmoil, and massive divisiveness within school communities. It undermines the democratic process by privatizing public space and strips control from School Boards whom we've elected to represent us.

We support a process in which parents are authentically involved at the ground level up in developing strategies for improvement. These strategies might include smaller class sizes, more reading coaches, emphasis on increased parent involvement, or other proven reforms.

After researching and witnessing the Parent Trigger's disastrous attempt to privatize CA schools, Parents Across America co-founders and members believe the underlying goal of this law is to turn public schools over to charter operators.

Genuine parental empowerment is the core of PAA's mission. However, we vehemently oppose the dismantling of neighborhood public schools currently serving the entire community for the purpose of hand over to private entities serving selected students.

We fear the pattern seen elsewhere will be replicated if this legislation is passed.

1) Our most vulnerable, at risk, and special needs students will be abandoned.

2) The community will lose its vital connection to its local public school -- a source of stabilty.

3) Parents will be excluded -- as they are in most charters -- in developing research-based solutions collectively to address challenges they face.

4) The Parent Trigger process pits parents against teachers (the exact opposite of what's
needed)
. It also pits parents against Principals -- parents against parents. Communities must unite to work together for positive change especially in economically challenged times.

5) Home to school partnerships and parent-community assistance are critical to student success. The Parent Trigger process undermines that process entirely.

6) Parent Trigger "transformations" can severely impact the community by over-crowding schools with students excluded by the charter, by siphoning much-needed education dollars from district budgets, or by accommodating students elsewhere when the charters experience financial crisis and suddenly close..

In summary, PAA views the Parent Empowerment Law as a distraction from the real work our schools require implementing proven, common-sense strategies for parent involvement and meaningful, sustained education reform.

The corporate reform organization in California basically abandoned this parent trigger process due to its well publicized, catastrophic failure.

The question is: Will Florida legislators pass a law which proved to be a colossal failure in another state?

We urge Florida lawmakers to oppose this destructive and divisive legislation.

Unfortunately some tend to disregard remarks or positions based upon the author's motives or affiliations. Let me clarify: I am a parent, a member of corporate America, a taxpayer, a non teacher, and non-union member.

My goal is to stop the systematic dismantling of public schools in our society as I believe they are the cornerstone of our democracy. My goal is also to stop the wasteful distribution of my tax dollars. This is a prime example.