A similar bill, officially a "parent empowerment" measure, was narrowly defeated last year in the Legislature. This year's version is as divisive as 2012's,
The bill has the backing of influential lawmakers and influential education reform groups, including Jeb Bush's and Michelle Rhee's. The folks from Parent Revolution -- the California-based group that started the "parent trigger" movement in that state -- have been pushing passage here, too.
They argue the bill will help parents in F-graded schools, giving them more power to force changes.
The bill takes aim at "consistent failure factories," said Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami, a bill sponsor.
"You should not have to continually cross your fingers and hope that change will eventually come -- all while your child has to bear the consequence of an ineffective education," said Nikki Lowery, Florida director for StudentsFirst, in an emailed statement last month. StudentsFirst is Rhee's group.
Those arguments anger and worry other education advocates, including the Florida PTA, who think Florida parents don't want or need the power the bill seeks to hand them. Instead, they see the bill -- and its Senate companion -- as an effort to turn more public schools over to private firms.
"I’ve not heard a single parent say they want this back," Gamal Mack of the Orange County PTA told lawmakers during a committee hearing on the bill.
The bill allows parents, by petition, to tell their local School Board which "turnaround" option should be selected for an F-graded school. The options (already in state and federal lawa) include closing the school, turning it into a charter school (many of which have private management companies running them) and turning it over to a private management firm.
"I firmly believe this bill opens the floodgates…for that industry to engage in the process that could privatize our schools. I think that’s terrifying," said Rep. Joe Saunders, D-Orlando.
The House goes into session at 1L30 p.m. this afternoon.
A bill that aims to tighten charter school financial requirements and one that expands digital learning options are also up for votes today -- and likely to prompt debate.