Is there anyone left who is surprised by this?
Jeb Bush is hell-bent on gutting public education. He is relentless.
Opposition mounts against Parent Empowerment Act (subscription req'd)
March 6, 2012
The bill is one of the legislative priorities of the Foundation for Florida's Future, a group founded by former Gov. Jeb Bush to advocate education policies favored by the former governor. The group supports the expansion of school vouchers and charter schools and supports proposals to increase school accountability.
"This has nothing to do with empowering parents and everything to do with the hostile takeover of public education in Florida," (Senator Nan) Rich (a Democrat from Weston) said, adding that large for-profit charter school management companies are eyeing the billions of tax dollars that could be theirs under the proposal. ..... Rich said the only empowerment offered parents by the bill is "their empowerment to deliver their child's public school into the hands of a charter management company."
"Our public schools are not for sale," said Sen. Eleanor Sobel, a Democrat from Hollywood. "Our taxpayer dollars paid for those public schools ... we may never get them back ... we don't want to head in that direction." The bill has no specific provision for returning the school building to the local school district if a charter takes over and fails.
In 16 years as a legislator, (Paula) Dockery (a Republican from Lakeland) said the proposed bill represents more than a small change to education in the state. "This is not incremental, this is a full frontal attack," she said.
This bill has already sailed through the House. The GOP Senate leaders circumvented the normal committee pathways and ramrodded the bill over to the Senate, pushing for a full Senate vote before the legislative session ends on Friday. They would not allow parents to speak. There was no debate allowed.
How this bill was slammed through the legislature is stunning.
Here is how it went:
Senate President Mike Haridopolos (Republican) tried and failed to bring the bill directly to the Senate floor last Friday. It was blocked by a bipartisan group of legislators. Undeterred, Haridopolos sent the bill to a specially convened Budget Committee meeting, headed up by Senator JD Alexander (Republican), who then rushed it past parents trying to speak, who he cut off, and allowing no debate.
Parent trigger gimmick further erodes public education
Tampa Bay Times
March 6, 2012
The Florida Legislature is still trying to shed its responsibility for the state's struggling public schools. The latest scheme, enabling a majority of parents at a public school to force a conversion to a charter school, is not the answer. Republican senators who care about their communities and accountability should join Democrats and say no to the so-called "parent trigger" law.
This bill (SB 1718) is the latest policy pushed by former Gov. Jeb Bush's Foundation for Florida's Future under the guise that the threat of competition from the private sector will improve public education. But there is also an incentive for the private sector, given that more public schools are expected to be deemed failing in coming years due to pending changes in the state's grading formula. This parent trigger bill would allow a small cadre of parents to influence how millions of taxpayer dollars will be spent. Those groups would be more susceptible to a for-profit charter operator's pitch than the seasoned public education professionals who decide under current law.
Republican sponsors claim their goal is to empower parents, but it's really just another gimmick distracting from lawmakers' continued indifference to investing in public schools. Even with the restoration of $1 billion next year to cover most of this year's cut in public education spending, Florida still ranks among the lowest in the nation in per pupil spending.
Two recent lessons in the Tampa Bay region also should inform senators' votes before they open the door wider for charter schools. The Pinellas County School Board is trying to revoke the charter of a Life Force Arts and Technology Academy in Dunedin after it was discovered to have used tax dollars to purchase Church of Scientology-related materials and taken children on a field trip to a Scientology church. And schools in St. Petersburg and Land O' Lakes run by the nonprofit Imagine School also remain under scrutiny because of the extraordinary rental payments they make to a related, for-profit corporation.
That charter school got the axe today.
Pinellas School Board approves notice of termination for Life Force charter school
March 6, 2012
LARGO — The clock is ticking for the Life Force Arts and Technology Academy, the charter elementary school teaching study methods embraced by the Church of Scientology.
The Pinellas County School Board voted unanimously Tuesday to issue the Dunedin school a 90-day notice of termination, meaning it could close this summer at the end of its third school year.
The Tampa Bay Times reported last month that administrators at Life Force, which earns about $800,000 in public funds a year, compelled students to learn "study technology," a methodology devised by Scientology's late founder, L. Ron Hubbard.
Students at the public charter school advertised as the SMART Academy were also taken on a field trip to a Scientology church in Ybor City. More than $30,000 in school funds has been given to the World Literacy Crusade, a California-based group that promotes Hubbard's "study tech."
Sham reform, sham politics
Palm Beach Post
March 5, 2012
This proposal would allow 51 percent of parents whose children attend a failing public school to dictate the state-required turnaround plan. Supporters tried to move the bill, which the House has passed, to the Senate floor last week for a vote. They failed, because many Republicans oppose it, even though GOP legislators usually love anything that Jeb Bush calls "education reform."
After failing to bring the bill straight to the floor, supporters scheduled a rare Senate Budget Committee meeting for Saturday morning, then cut off opponents. Chairman J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales, got all huffy when Sen. Nan Rich, D-Sunrise, asked a man speaking for the bill where he worked. He had identified himself as a former teacher. His current job: He works as a part-time intern at Jeb Bush's Foundation for Florida's Future, which has been lobbying for the bill. Ironically, one major concern about the legislation is that parents can manipulate the process to "trigger" a takeover.
A for-profit charter school could take over the public school by obtaining the signatures of 51 percent of parents. Parents could replace staff or move students to other schools. The bill's sponsor, Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers, claims that if 51 percent of parents sign a petition, that must be a sign of deep parental involvement and support for a turnaround plan. Actual experience with this kind of law refutes that.
One reason for the timing of this legislation is that Florida might see more F-graded schools soon because the state Board of Education last week adopted a tougher grading formula. That could mean more opportunities for school profiteers.
March 5, 2012
Critics say the measure represents yet another nail being driven into public education and teachers unions in no small part by charter school companies that lack the same accountability standards as traditional public schools.
On Monday, a coalition of opponents including teachers unions, the PTA and other parent support organizations, told reporters the real push behind the legislation was from charter school management companies that want the ability to tap into billions of dollars in taxpayer revenue.
"This legislation has nothing to do with empowering parents or giving children and their parents more options for improving schools," said Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich of Weston.
"It has everything to do with laying the groundwork for the corporate takeover of public schools."
The timing on this bill is meant to dovetail with the new "A to F" school grading formula, which is slated to be much tougher for schools to pass. The result is more failing schools, and more opportunity for hostile takeovers by charter companies and others who have their eyes on the pot of the state's public school money. People like Rupert Murdoch and his operative, not surprisingly, Jeb Bush, who has often said how important "making money" is to him.
Enter one Jeb Bush and his Foundation for Florida's Future that is lobbying hard for the "Parent Trigger" bill. The ironic thing here is that parents will be pulling the trigger on their own public schools, giving away its funding permanently to charter schools. And it will only require 51% of the parents to sign a petition for that option.
Wonder how many parents' signatures will be either forged or will be browbeaten into giving?
What's also notable is the large number of groups that are opposed to this bill:
1. The Florida PTA
2. The Florida Association of District School Superintendents
3. The Florida Education Association
4. The Florida School Boards Association
You see, all of this public fury does not matter to Jeb Bush.
It didn't matter when voters wanted high-speed rail for Florida. It didn't matter when voters wanted smaller class sizes. It didn't matter that teachers wanted a strong union to protect their rights. It didn't matter that teachers did not want to be subjected to merit pay based on standardized testing of their students.
None of that matters to Jeb Bush.
I want to be very wealthy, and I'll be glad to tell you when I've accomplished that goal.---John Ellis Bush, son of the president
And nothing or no one is going to get in his way.
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